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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Israeli arrow missile operators prepare for Iranian attack

From the headline below you might get the impression this has something to do with archery.... Now all we must hope for is that the anti-missile missiles are better than the Patriot system was in 1991.

Arrow operators doing weekly reserve duty to prepare for Iran

May. 3, 2009

Air Force reservists who operate the Arrow and Patriot missile defense systems have recently begun spending one day a week on duty to sharpen their skills, amid fears that in a conflict with Iran, dozens of long-range missiles would be fired at Israel, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The decision to call up operators of the Arrow and Patriot systems was made last year by head of the IAF's Air Defense Division Brig.-Gen. Daniel Milo.

Until then, only pilots were called up for one day of reserve duty a week following their discharge from mandatory service.

"We are working hard to be ready for the Iranian threat," a top IAF officer said. "We are preparing for barrages, split warheads and other surprises and therefore we need to retain a high operational level by everyone, including reservists."

Soldiers from the Air Defense Division who are on study leave are also spending one day a week at the unit.

"They come once a week to simulate different scenarios," the officer explained.

The scenarios that are drilled include the firing of large barrages at Israel from different countries at once, and the need for the operator to decide which missile to intercept first and at what stage of its flight.

"There are difficult dilemmas that the operators face when it comes to missile defense," the officer said.

Last month, the IAF held its 17th test of the Arrow 2 interceptor, shooting down a missile mimicking an Iranian Shihab ballistic missile.

Later this year, the IAF will hold an unprecedented and massive exercise with the US military to jointly test three different ballistic missile defense systems, including the Israeli-made Arrow and the American THAAD and Aegis, which will be brought specially to Israel for the exercise.

The high-powered American X-Band radar, deployed in the Negev Desert in late 2008 as a farewell gift from former President George W. Bush, participated in the recent Arrow test and tracked the incoming target.

Military sources said that it was capable of providing "several minutes" of warning from when a missile is launched from Iran and until it is supposed to land in Israel.


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Israel is a good place to raise children, but the education system stinks

While 87% would raise children in Israel, nearly 40% want a foreign passport - just in case. And 33% think the education system is the most serious problem that needs handling (aging, wrinkles, Iranian nukes and the Hamas were not on the list). 
Poll: 87%:9% If had choice would raise children in Israel

Dr. Aaron Lerner Date 1 May 2009

Telephone poll of a representative sample of 562 adult Israeli Jews carried out by New Wave Research for Yisrael Hayom the week before 28 April and published on 28 April 2009 in Yisrael Hayom.

In general is the State of Israel a state it is good to live in?
Yes 84% No 10% Don't know 6%

If it were up to you, would you want your children raised in Israel or elsewhere?
Israel 87% Elsewhere 9% Don't know 4%

On a scale of 1 to 10 what grade do you give to the following in Israel:
People 6.9 Weather 7.3 Sea 7.5 View 8.7 Food 8.8

Have you a foreign passport in addition to an Israeli passport?
No 82% Yes 18%

If you don't have a foreign passport, would you like to have one?
Yes 39% No 58% Don't know 3%

Do you plan to fly an Israeli flag on your home or car this upcoming Israel Independence Day?
Yes 84% No 14% Don't know 2%

Do you consider yourself first a Jew or an Israeli?
Jew 62% Israeli 26% Don't know 12%

Percent that have trust in the following institutions:
IDF 89% Courts 61% Police 51% Media 38% Knesset 35%

What is your favorite food of the following:
Falafel 25% Humus 24% Pizza 19% Sushi 10% Hamburger 8% Don't know 14%

What do you prefer - Jerusalem or Tel Aviv?
Jerusalem 50% Tel Aviv 41% Don't know 9%

Is Israel going in the right direction?
Yes 40% No 34% Don't know 26%

Will Israel reach a general peace agreement with the Palestinians within the next five years?
No 70% Yes 21% Don't know 9%

Should Israel attack Iran in order to present them from obtaining nuclear
Yes 40% No 35% Don't know 25%

Are you personally afraid of being fired?
Yes 20% No 54% Don't know 26%

Of the following matters what is the most serious problem Israel has to handle?
Education 33% Poverty 17% Corruption 5% Crime 12% Accidents 8% Health 7% Don't know 8%

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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American VP Joe Biden to appear at AIPAC policy conference

Is Biden going to talk about discourage Israel from attacking Iran?
May 02, 2009
Categories: White House
Vice President Joe Biden will headline the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual [POLICY] conference, which begins tomorrow in Washington, D.C., a source at the group said.
The announcement that Biden will speak Monday morning comes a day after a victory for the group and the pro-Israel community; the Justice Department decided to drop charges of mishandling classified information against two former AIPAC staffers.
The conference, a chance for AIPAC to flex its unmatched Beltway muscle, is expected draw 6,500 people, and a phalanx of top officials of both parties. Other speakers include Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, Newt Gingrich and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as well as congressional leaders Steny Hoyer, Dick Durbin, Eric Cantor, and Jon Kyl. The event typically draws more members of Congress than any outside a joint session or State of the Union.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will also be addressing the group, live via satellite from Jerusalem, getting up at 3:00 a.m. local time to do it. Rep. Jane Harman, who was investigated in connection with the dropped case against AIPAC staffers, will also be speaking.

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Terrible news about Obama and Israel?

Debkafiles have suffered a terrible fright, and a great wailing and lamentation is heard throughout the land of Debkafiles readers. "Woe is unto us!" To hear Debkafiles tell it, you would think that Obama is planning to force Orthodox Jews to eat pork and other Israelis to wear a yellow star.  
Here's the key to the new Nurenberg laws:

According to our sources, the White House staff is working at top speed on options for imposing its will.

Peres and Netanyahu will be informed that Washington is setting up two trilateral peace commissions to hammer out peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians and Israel with the Syrians.

US officials in both chairs will intercede with their own ideas to prevent them running into deadlock on disputed issues. DEBKAfile's sources confirm that the Obama administration will not spare the whip to force the parties into line.

Gevalt! A peace agreement! A bitter cry and lamentation arises from the quarters of the faithful, who are in sack cloth and ashes. What will we ever do? How could we ever survive a peace agreement? And the US will have its own ideas about the peace. What a tragedy!

Seriously, assuming that the report is true, which is not necessarily likely (wouldn't be the first time Debkafiles is wrong!) one hopes that Debkafiles represents their own opinion, and not that of the Israeli government. What FM Lieberman said in his famous speech was, those who seek peace must prepare for war. That doesn't mean that the possibility of peace should be greeted as if it were a full scale invasion or a plague. Those who seek peace should also be prepared for peace, and those who prepare for war should hope they never have to make use of their preparations.

Ami Isseroff

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Historian and author Michael Oren to be Israel's US Ambassador

Michael Oren is possibly the best man for the job of Israel ambassador to the United States, though he has no diplomatic experience. Media reports variously portray Oren variously as a "neocon" or a peacenik. Obviously, both assessments could not be correct, and either one is an oversimplification of a complex three-dimensional personality. Oren is a good speaker as well as being an accomplished historian. He has written "Six Days of War" about the Yom Kippur war and  "Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East." The first book demonstrated a familiarity with how Israel "works" as well as an understanding of how to present it to a foreign audience. The second demonstrated an understanding of how American diplomacy "works" and of evolving American understanding of the Middle East. In other words, Oren speaks both Israeli and American. In the possibly difficult days ahead with the Obama administration, Oren might be best qualified to win American public support for Israeli positions and to put them in langauge that American officials can understand and identify with, as well as being able to read and translate the United States for the Netanyahu government.
However, promise is one thing and fullfilment is another. It would no doubt have been better if Oren had served in some lesser diplomatic post before being tapped for the most critical diplomatic posting for Israel, at a most critical time.
Last update - 19:37 02/05/2009       
Netanyahu candidate Michael Oren tapped as U.S. envoy
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
Dr. Michael Oren is set to be appointed Israeli ambassador to Washington after Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman added his endorsement over the weekend.
Oren, who was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's candidate for the position, received the endorsement following separate meetings with Netanyahu and Lieberman on Thursday.
The cabinet must now approve the appointment at its weekly meeting Sunday to set the decision in stone. Oren would then take up the position before Netanyahu's expected meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on May 18 or 19.
Oren, a visiting Georgetown University professor, said in a lecture there last month, "The only alternative for Israel to save itself as a Jewish state is by unilaterally withdrawing from the West Bank and evacuating most of the settlements."
He beat several high-profile candidates for the position, including ex-Likud MK Zalman Shoval, who served twice before as ambassador to the United States, Dr. Dore Gold, who served as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations from 1997 to 1999, and Alon Pinkas, who served as Consul General in New York from 2000 to 2004

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Obama will Meet Israeli President Peres Tueday

Obama will meet with Peres on Tuesday May 5, during Peres's visit to attend the AIPAC policy conferece. It is not clear if this will be merely a courtesy call or an occasion for exchanging policy views. Peres will be the first Israeli statesman to meet Obama since the inauguration last month of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Yet another article about "Is Obama bad for Israel?"

Norman Podhoretz's apocalyptic article (How Obama's America Might Threaten Israel)  about the Obama administration and Israel is reproduced below. It is not a happy assessment. But we can question some of Podhoretz's assumptions and assertions:
Assumption: Bush administration put less pressure on Israel for negotiations with Palestinians, and more onus on the Palestinians.
Facts: During the first months of the Bush administration, the US reportedly suspended military replacement shipments to Israel in order to discourage Israeli military strikes in response to the growing violence. Operations were repeatedly postponed because of US pressure. When Israel finally decided to act, during  Operation Defensive Shield, Bush sent then Secretary of State Powell to the Middle East to try to get  Israel to withdraw immediately.  Condoleeza Rice as Secretary of State repeated cautioned Israel about building in the West Bank, particularly in Jerusalem - for example here. It was Bush, after all, who insisted on making a Palestinian state the official goal of the negotiating process, and it was the Bush administration that initiated passage of a United Nations Security Council Resolution calling for a Palestinian state.
The Bush administration insisted that the Gaza disengagement be complete, including withdrawal of Israeli forces. Originally it had been intended to keep a buffer zone in northern Gaza and to keep Israeli troops in Gaza. Condoleeza Rice insisted on the participation of the Hamas in the Palestinian elections. These two changed conditions helped ensure the rise of Hamas and the subsequent violence. During the Second Lebanon War, Condoleeza Rice cautioned Israel not to hurt the fragile Lebanese democracy and Bush likewise stated "We're concerned about the fragile democracy in Lebanon,''  Not long after, both the United States and France signalled that they lost interest in Lebanon entirely.  Undeniably, it was also the Bush administration and not the Obama administration that initiated the Annapolis talks, which have become the bugbear of the Netanyahu administration. Since the Netanyahu government took office there have been no Israeli-Palestinian talks, and as far as anyone knows, nobody has pressured Israel to renew the talks immediately.
Assumption: If Iran acquires a nuclear weapon it will use it on Israel, killing millions of people.
Facts: Nothing is impossible. However, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs of 1945 each killed about 100,000 people. That would be bad enough, but it is not millions. The Iranian bomb would be of that magnitude. Furthermore, Iran would have to reckon with the probability of killing a large number of Muslims, as well as facing certain Israeli nuclear retaliation.   
Assertion: The Obama administration has cautioned Israel against attacking Iranian nuclear facilities.
Facts: That is true, but the underlying assumption is that this policy is somehow different from that of the Bush administration. Admiral Mullen has opposed an Israeli strike on Iran at least since July of 2008. The Bush administration reportedly turned down an Israeli request for an air corridor over Iran as well as requests for refueling aircraft and bunker buster bombs to be used in such an attack.
Just because Podhoretz has produced a fictional contrast between the Bush and Obama administrations, and just because Iran might not drop the bomb on Israel, does not mean there is not a problem. The United States has been dawdling over Iran policy in both the Bush and Obama administrations, and nobody has taken decisive action to marshal support for meaningful sanctions against Iran. The real danger is not that Iran will drop the bomb on Israel, but that they would use the bomb as a permit for mayhem in the Gulf, Lebanon and Gaza, in their effort to combat Israel and to oust the United States from the Middle East.
We simply do not have enough data to decide about the Obama administration. The real test will come if and when a serious threat develops in Gaza, and Israel sees the need to respond. The  Hamas and Israel have been observing a relative cease fire since Operation Cast Lead but nothing guarantees that it will continue. Suppose the Hamas renew the rocket fire in strength and Israel sends the IDF into Gaza. . How will the United States react? 
Ami Isseroff

May 2009

Is there a threat to Israel from the United States under Barack Obama? The question itself seems perverse. For in spite of the hostility to Israel in certain American quarters, this country has more often than not been the beleaguered Jewish state's only friend in the face of threats coming from others. Nor has the young Obama administration been any less fervent than its last two predecessors in declaring an undying commitment to the security and survival of Israel.

Nevertheless, during the 2008 presidential campaign, friends of Israel (a category that, speculations to the contrary notwithstanding, still includes a large majority of the American Jewish community) had ample reason for anxiety over Obama. The main reason was his attitude toward Iran. After all, Iran under its current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was vowing almost on a daily basis to "wipe Israel off the map" and was drawing closer and closer to acquiring the nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles that would give the ruling mullocracy the means to do so. And yet Obama seemed to think that the best way to head off the very real possibility this posed of another holocaust was by entering into talks with Iran "without preconditions." Otherwise, except for campaign promises, his record was bereft of any definitive indication of his views on the war the Arab/Muslim world has been waging against the Jewish state from the day of its founding more than sixty years ago.

Still—lest we forget—Obama did have a history of involvement with associates whose enmity toward Israel was unmistakable. There was, most notoriously, his longtime pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. In addition to honoring the blatantly anti-Semitic Louis Farrakhan, Wright was on record as believing that Israel had joined with South Africa in developing an "ethnic bomb" designed to kill blacks and Arabs but not whites; he had accused Israel of committing "genocide" against the Palestinians; and he had participated in a campaign to get American companies to "divest" from Israel. None of this, however, nor all of it together, had elicited so much as a peep of protest from Obama, never mind provoking him into leaving Wright's congregation. He remained a member for twenty years, during which time Wright officiated at his marriage and baptized his children.

Then there was Rashid Khalidi, holder of a professorship at Columbia named after his idol, the late Edward Said. As befitted a reverential disciple of the leading propagandist for Palestinian terrorism, and himself a defender of suicide bombing, Khalidi regularly denounced Israel as a "racist" state in the process of creating an "apartheid system." Nevertheless, Obama had befriended him, had publicly acknowledged being influenced by him, and, as a member of the board of a charitable foundation, had also helped to support him financially. And there was also one of Obama's chief advisers on national security and the co-chairman of his campaign, General Merrill McPeak, who subscribed to the canard that American policy in the Middle East was dictated by Jews in the interests not of the United States but of Israel. Others said to be advising Obama included a number who were no more notable than McPeak for their friendliness toward Israel: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Robert Malley, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power.

True, as the campaign proceeded, Obama either distanced himself from or repudiated the ideas of such associates. Yet he only got around to doing so when the political exigencies of his candidacy left him no prudential alternative.

Not surprisingly, a fair number of Jews who had never voted for a Republican in their lives were disturbed enough to tell pollsters that they had serious doubts about supporting Obama. Faced with this horrific prospect, Obama's Jewish backers mounted a vigorous effort of reassurance. No fewer than three hundred rabbis issued a statement declaring that his "deep and abiding spiritual faith" derived from "the teachings of the Hebrew Prophets." Several well-known champions of Israel also wrote articles explaining on rather convoluted grounds why they were backing Obama. There was, for example, Alan Dershowitz of the Harvard Law School: "The election of Barack Obama—a liberal supporter of Israel—will enhance Israel's position among wavering liberals." And Martin Peretz of The New Republic: "Israel's conflict with the Arabs . . . is mostly about history, and Obama is a student of history." And Martin Indyk of the Brookings Institution: "I believe Obama passes the kishke [gut] test."

The small community of politically conservative Jews did what it could to counter this campaign, but to no avail. In the event, Obama received 78 percent of the Jewish vote. This was a staggering 35 points higher than the pro-Obama white vote in general (43 percent), and it was even 11 points higher than the Hispanic vote (67 percent). Only with blacks, who gave him 95 percent of their vote, did Obama do better than with Jews. The results were just as dramatic when broken down by religion as by race and ethnicity: Protestants gave 45 percent of their vote to Obama (33 points less than Jews), and Catholics gave him 54 percent (24 points less than Jews).


But if the forecasts of a Jewish defection from Obama were all wrong, the prediction of his Jewish opponents that he would be less friendly toward Israel than George W. Bush has turned out to be more accurate than any "kishke test." Bush's friendliness manifested itself in various ways. One of the most important was his backing for the measures Israel had been taking to defend itself against suicide bombing—the building of a wall and the institution of checkpoints that would make it harder for suicide bombers to get through from the West Bank and into Israel proper. These measures were denounced almost everywhere as oppressive in themselves and as a species of apartheid, while the accompanying assassinations of the leaders who recruited, trained, and supplied the suicide bombers were routinely condemned as acts of murder. But Bush—that is, the Bush who emerged after 9/11—would have none of this. So far as he was concerned, suicide bombing was a form of terrorism and therefore evil by definition. Israel had an absolute right to defend itself against this great evil, and in fighting it, the Israelis were struggling against the same enemy that had declared war on us on 9/11.

A similar logic guided Bush's view of the Israeli incursion into Lebanon in 2006 and of its attack on Gaza in 2008. Since, contrary to the confident assurances of their opponents, the wall, the checkpoints, and the targeted assassinations had all but eliminated suicide bombing, the terrorists were now resorting to a different tactic. From its redoubt in Lebanon, Hizballah rained rockets into the north of Israel, and from its base in Gaza, Hamas fired them into the south. In each of these cases, when the Israelis finally responded, they were furiously accused by most of the world of using "disproportionate" force that allegedly resulted in the wholesale "slaughter" of innocent civilians. But Bush would have none of these egregious defamations either. Both in 2006 and 2008, he again affirmed Israel's right to defend itself against terrorist assault, and he worked to fend off efforts by the UN to stop the Israelis before they could finish the job they had set out to do.

To be sure, Barack Obama (while still President-elect) said about the then impending Israeli incursion into Gaza, that

If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything in my power to stop that and I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.

This sounded very much like Bush. But whereas an altogether new conception of how to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians undergirded Bush's support for the tactics Israel had been using to defend itself against terrorist attack, there was nothing in Obama's record or in his past statements or in his history to suggest that he shared, or even was aware of, this conception.

George W. Bush was the first American President to come out openly in favor of a Palestinian state. But he also decided to attach a codicil that was even more novel. "Today," he declared on June 24, 2002,

Palestinian authorities are encouraging, not opposing, terrorism. This is unacceptable. And the United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure.

To this he added the requirement that they elect "new leaders, not compromised by terror," which amounted to an implicit demand that Yasser Arafat be replaced.

Of course, Bush also challenged Israel "to take concrete steps to support the emergence of a viable, credible Palestinian state." Yet he most emphatically did not follow the usual practice of blaming Israel for the persistence of the war against it. Instead, in an entirely unprecedented move, he placed the onus on the Palestinian leaders and the Arab states backing them up. By saying up front that "there is simply no way to achieve . . . peace until all parties fight terror," he was blaming the absence of peace on the Arab states and the "Palestinian authorities" (who were "encouraging, not opposing, terrorism"), and he was exonerating the Israelis (who were being "victimized by terrorists," not supporting them).

Nor was this all. Two years later, in an addendum to his codicil, Bush said that "as part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders," and that these must include "already existing major Israeli population centers." To put it plainly, the United States rejected the almost universally accepted idea that a precondition for the establishment of a Palestinian state was the forcible removal of every last Jew from the West Bank. In all other contexts, this is known as ethnic cleansing and regarded as a great crime. But in this context alone, and by a process of reasoning that has always escaped me, it has been magically transmuted into the exercise of a sacred human right. Not, however, to Bush.


Now, on a number of issues—most notably Iraq—Obama as President has surprised many people by in effect signing on to Bush's policies (while claiming to be reversing them). Yet even though he will certainly follow Bush in pushing for the establishment of a Palestinian state, it would be nothing less than astounding if he were also to accept the conditions prescribed by the Bush codicil and its addendum. For neither Obama himself nor those of his appointees who will be involved in the "peace process"—his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton; his special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell; his national security adviser, Gen. James Jones; and his Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, although she made the right noises at her confirmation hearing—have ever so much as suggested that it is the Palestinians and not the Israelis who are blocking the way to the holy grail of a two-state solution. On the contrary, Obama and his team are all great worshipers at the shrine of "even-handedness," which has long served as a deceptive euphemism for pressuring Israel to make unilateral concessions to Palestinian demands.

No wonder, then, that the Obama administration is already reverting to the old pre-Bush assumptions that have repeatedly been discredited in practice: that Israeli "intransigence" is the main obstacle to ending the conflict with the Palestinians; that "restarting" the "peace process" therefore requires putting the onus back on Israel; and that this in turn necessitates forcing Israel back to the 1967 borders. In other words, Jerusalem must be redivided and the major centers of Jewish population in the West Bank that Bush had promised would remain part of Israel must also be evacuated and the West Bank as a whole be made Judenrein.

Indeed, during Hillary Clinton's first trip as Secretary of State to Israel, she went evenhandedly out of her way to castigate the Israelis over the issue of Arab housing in Jerusalem while making a great show of the $900 million the U.S. has pledged to Gaza.


It is too early to tell whether the return to this approach will go so far as to substantiate the fear expressed by the former UN ambassador John R. Bolton, who foresees "pressure on Israel to acknowledge the legitimacy of [Hamas and Hezbollah], and to negotiate with them as equals (albeit perhaps under some artful camouflage)." But it is not too early to tell that nothing will come of a reversion to the pre-Bush assumptions. Nothing will come of it with the Israelis because they—even most of the doves among them—have learned that withdrawing from previously occupied territories means the creation of bases from which terrorists will rain rockets on Israeli towns. Thus, when in 2000 they withdrew from the security zone they had established in southern Lebanon, Hizballah moved in, and then their withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 resulted in a takeover by Hamas—eventuating in both cases not in peace or even improved prospects for peace but in war and more war. Furthermore, the withdrawal from Gaza, entailing as it did the dragging of some 8,000 Jews out of their homes, was so painful a national trauma that doing the same to more than thirty times that many Jews living in the West Bank has become unthinkable.

Nor will anything come of the old approach with the Palestinians. The writ, such as it is, of Mahmoud Abbas as president of the Palestinian Authority extends only to the West Bank, not to Gaza, so that even if he were to reach an agreement with Israel, he lacks the power to deliver on it.

But a deeper reason may be at work here as well. When people quote Abba Eban's famous quip that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, the opportunity they have in mind is the achievement of statehood. And it is true that on at least three occasions when they could have had peace and a state of their own for the asking—in 1947, under the UN partition plan; in 2000, under the extremely generous terms proposed jointly by Israel under Ehud Barak and the United States under Bill Clinton; and in 2005, after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza—the Palestinians rejected statehood and chose war instead.

May it not be, then, that they failed to seize these "opportunities" because they have never really wanted a state of their own?

Giora Eiland, a retired general and the former head of Israel's National Security Council, argues that this is indeed the case. He writes:

The Palestinian ethos is based on values such as justice, victimization, revenge, and above all, the "right of return." . . . It's true that the Palestinians want to do away with the occupation, but it's wrong to assume that this translates into a desire for an independent state. They would prefer the solution of "no state at all"—that is, the State of Israel will cease to exist and the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River will be divided among Jordan, Syria, and Egypt.

Adding to the plausibility of this theory is the most recent polling data showing that a large majority of Palestinians would reject the two-state solution even after "the settlement of all issues in dispute," and would be unwilling to accept a state of their own even with its capital in East Jerusalem and an unlimited "right of return."

But whether or not Eiland is right—and I for one think that he is, at least about the "no-state" solution—the futility under current conditions of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is so obvious that even devout American "peace processers" like Aaron David Miller and Martin Indyk acknowledge it. Hence (along with certain high-placed Israelis) they now advocate shifting to the "Syrian track." But nothing will come of this either. Even under the delusion that, in exchange for the Golan Heights, Syria would be ready to give up the dream of wiping Israel off the map that it shares with its closest ally Iran, it is hard to see how the Israelis would be willing to do unto the 20,000 Jews living there what they did to the 8,000 who lived in Gaza.1

When I say that nothing will come of renewed American pressure on Israel to accept the demands that are the precondition of a deal with the Palestinians and/or the Syrians, I mean that nothing will come of it on the ground. It is, however, likely to result in the same souring of relations that developed in the 1990s when George H.W. Bush was in the White House and Yitzhak Shamir was Prime Minister of Israel, and that then carried over to their successors, Bill Clinton and Benjamin Netanyahu. Unpleasant as this would be, it does not rise to the level of a threat.

But what surely does rise to the level of a threat is American policy toward Iran. In making the ridiculous boast during his presidential campaign that he could talk Iran into giving up its quest for nuclear weapons (and the missiles to deliver them), Obama was careful to add that the military option remained available in case all else failed. But everyone, and especially the Iranians and the Israelis, had to know that this was pro forma, and that if elected Obama would pursue the same carrot-and-stick approach of the Europeans who had been negotiating with Iran for the past five years. He would do this in spite of the fact that the only accomplishment of the European diplomatic dance had been to buy the Iranians more time; in spite of the fact that they had spurned the carrots they were offered and defied the sanctions put in place by the Security Council; and in spite of the fact that the Russians and the Chinese—who had prevented stronger sanctions from being adopted—were still determined to veto measures like a blockade or a cutoff of gasoline imports that could conceivably do the trick.

How much time do we have? Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at first said that Iran was still five years or more away from the bomb. This estimate relied on the CIA, in which Gates worked for more than 25 years, including a stint (1991-93) as its director. But the CIA does not exactly have a brilliant record of tracking nuclear proliferation. It was wrong in 2007 about Iran's suspension of its nuclear program; wrong in 2003 about Syria's nuclear program; wrong in 2002 about Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction; and wrong in exactly the opposite direction before the First Gulf War in 1991, at whose end UN inspectors discovered that the Iraqi nuclear program was far more advanced than the American intelligence community had thought. By contrast, an increasing number of experts (possibly—to judge by hints he has thrown out—the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, among them) agree with the head of Israeli military intelligence, who warns that the Iranians have already "crossed the nuclear threshold." Perhaps this is why, in an interview with the Financial Times, Gates has now backed away from his complacent five-year estimate ("How much more time [we have] I don't know. It is a year, two years, three years"). Admit it or not, then, the awesome choice of bombing Iran or letting Iran get the bomb is hard upon us.

Although it is certain that Obama has removed American military action from the table, it is difficult to tell whether he still thinks that he can talk Iran into giving up its nuclear program. On the one hand, his Secretary of State reportedly admits that this is "very doubtful," but on the other hand she invites the Iranians to a conference on Afghanistan, then Obama himself sends a videotaped message proclaiming his "respect" for the brutal and tyrannical regime in Tehran, and finally it is announced that the U.S. will now join the Europeans, the Russians, and the Chinese in the farcical negotiations with Iran we had previously shunned. Naturally the mullahs, seizing this gift of an opportunity to buy yet more time for reaching their nuclear goal, welcome the renewal of "constructive dialogue."

Yet to Obama's offer of a "new day" in the relations between us, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of that regime, responds in a speech heaping scorn on the United States to the accompaniment of an audience chanting "Death to America." And far from having leaped at Obama's old offer of direct talks without preconditions, the Iranians have rebuffed it and insisted on a few preconditions of their own, beginning with an apology for all the "atrocities" we have committed against them and a promise of "deep and fundamental" change in our policy.

In order to avoid this humiliation, Obama (we learn from the New York Times) has chosen the slightly lesser humiliation of "seeking an understanding with Syria." The idea here, according to the Times, is that through the Syrians, "the United States could increase the pressure on Iran to respond to its offer of direct talks." And to compound the double foolishness of expecting the Syrians to lend us a helping hand with Iran and the Iranians to join with us against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Obama expects that

such an understanding [with Syria] would also give Arab states and moderate Palestinians the political cover to negotiate with Israel. That, in turn, could increase the burden on Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, to relax its hostile stance toward Israel.

Well, compared to this concatenation of wishful delusions, the prophet Isaiah's vision of the end of days when the lion will lie down with the lamb is a piece of hardheaded realism.


The upshot is that, barring military action by Israel (or a miracle), Iran will get the bomb, and sooner rather than later. What then? For some time now, many pundits with the ear of the Obama administration have finally recognized that neither carrots nor sticks nor any combination of the two can work. But instead of going on to support military action, they have fallen back on the position that we can "live with" a nuclear Iran.In line with the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), they soothingly tell us, the mullahs can be deterred by the fear of retaliation much as the far more heavily armed Soviets and Chinese were deterred during the cold war. They also say that Ahmadinejad—who in his fanaticism admittedly sounds as though he can hardly wait to use nuclear weapons against Israel—neither runs the regime nor speaks for it.

What they forget to mention, however, is that Ahmadinejad could never have issued his threats without permission from the Ayatollah Khamenei, who does run the regime, and who has himself described Israel as a "cancerous tumor" that must and will be excised. Besides, even Ahmadinejad's predecessor as president and the current Speaker of the Assembly of Experts, the Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, known far and wide as a "moderate," has declared that his country would not be deterred by the fear of retaliation:

If the day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in its possession ... application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.

If this is the position of even a reputed Iranian moderate, how could Israel depend upon MAD to keep the mullahs from launching a first strike? Much anxiety has been voiced over the nuclear arms race that would be triggered throughout the region if Iran were to get the bomb, but in all truth we would be lucky if there were enough time for such a race to develop.For consider: if the Iranians were to get the bomb, the Israelis would be presented with an almost irresistible incentive to beat them to the punch with a preemptive strike—and so, understanding this, would Tehran. Either way, a nuclear exchange would become, if not inevitable, terrifyingly likely, and God alone knows how far the destruction would then spread.

Measured against this horrendous possibility, even the worst imaginable consequences of taking military action before the mullahs get the bomb would amount to chump change. But to say it again, with American military action ruled out, the only hope is that such action—which could at the very least head off the otherwise virtually certain prospect of a nuclear war—will be taken by Israel.

Forget about the Palestinian and Syrian "tracks": if there is a threat to Israel coming from Obama, it is that, having eschewed the use of force by the United States, he will follow through on his Vice President's declaration that the Israelis would be "ill-advised" to attack the Iranian nuclear sites and will prevent them from doing the job themselves.


1There are also other factors at play here that Bret Stephens brilliantly spells out in "The Syria Temptation—And Why Obama Must Resist It" (Commentary, March 2009).

Continued (Permanent Link)

Budget cuts threaten immigration of Ethiopian converted Jews (Falash Mura)

The saga of Ethiopian Jews continues. The exact number of Falash Mura (Jews who had converted to Christianity and now wish to revert) is not known, and seems to keep growing. It is never clear how many of these people really had Jewish ancestry and how many simply decided it would be better to live in Israel and there are contradictory claims. Despite large investments in integration, Ethiopian Jews remain at the periphery of Israeli society in many ways. Previously, it had been announced last August that the Aliya of the Falash Mura was at an end, and that there were less than 2,000 Falash Mura left in Ethiopia, but now it appears that there is a much larger number. At least some members of the Ethipian Jewish community in Israel have called on the government to stop the immigration of Falah Mura, on the basis that they are not Jews, and continue practising the Christian religion even after Aliya, and that many of them come from non-Jewish families.

Cutbacks threaten Falash Mura aliya

Apr. 30, 2009

Representatives of Israel's Ethiopians and their supporters reacted angrily on Thursday to a section of the draft 2009 Economic Arrangements Bill that could completely halt the flow of the Falash Mura community to Israel because the program is too costly.

According to the bill, which was made public this week when Labor MK Shelly Yacimovitch posted it on her blog, the government intends to cancel a cabinet decision from September that promised to continue checking the eligibility for aliya of some 3,000 Falash Mura, who say that under a 2003 government directive they should be allowed to immigrate to Israel.

"This is a shocking proposal," said Rabbi Menachem Waldman, a member of the Public Council for Ethiopian Jews and an expert on Falash Mura conversion. "If this is passed then it will turn thousands of Ethiopian Jews against the government of Israel."

The Economic Arrangement Bill is expected to be reviewed next week when the Knesset reconvenes and, if approved, will be passed along with the 2009 state budget.

Waldman, who spent Pessah in Ethiopia and celebrated the Seder in Gondar, where thousands of Falash Mura are waiting for Israeli government approval to make aliya, said that reversing the cabinet's earlier decision would be "anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish."

"In Gondar, there were thousands of Jews celebrating the festival," he said. "The chief rabbi of Israel [Shlomo Amar] recognizes them as Jews and Jewish law is clear about their status, so how can a Jewish country turn their back on them like this?"

"Nothing proposed by this government surprises me," Kadima MK Shlomo Molla, currently the only lawmaker of Ethiopian descent, told The Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview from the US. "This is an anti-social government that continually makes decisions to strengthen the wealthy and weaken the poor."

"[Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] basically considers Ethiopian immigrants an economic burden on this country and this proposal is bordering on racist," he said.

Molla, who accompanied Waldman to Ethiopia earlier this month, added: "I will do everything I can to fight this decision and make sure that aliya from Ethiopia continues."

The proposal to reverse the decision to continue checking the eligibility of the Falash Mura - Ethiopians whose Jewish ancestors converted to Christianity under duress more than a century ago - follows years of controversy over their right of return. Many of those still waiting to immigrate have family members already living in Israel and just want to the chance to prove to the government that they fit its criteria.

The debate over the remaining Falash Mura stems from a 1999 consensus compiled by Waldman and then-Interior Ministry director-general David Efrati. According to that register, 17,500 Falash Mura were eligible for aliya. Since then, 16,000 have arrived in Israel and more than 20,000 have been checked by Interior Ministry officials.

However, there are at least 9,000-15,000 Falash Mura who claim they are eligible to make aliya and, over the past year, have demanded the government continue checking their applications.

The 2009 Economic Arrangements Bill also deals with the government's five-year social-economic plan aimed at improving the quality of life for Ethiopian immigrants already living here.

It calls for the plan to be funded by the various government ministries that are involved, and not financed separately by the Treasury as originally promised.

"We won't let this happen," said Avi Masfin, spokesman of the Israel Association of Ethiopian Jews.

"We won't let the Finance Ministry shirk its responsibility and we will file a petition to protect this plan in the High Court of Justice if necessary."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Benny Morris and where the Israeli left is at

By Evan R. Goldstein
Posted April 2009
For Benny Morris the Israeli left isn't where it used to be.

On an overcast afternoon in early April, unsmiling men with big guns and earpieces patrol the sidewalk in front of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's private residence in the upscale Jerusalem neighborhood of Rehavia. A short walk up the road on Azza Street, Benny Morris sits outside a cafe, radiating despair. "Iran is building atomic weapons at least in part -- maybe in large part -- because it intends to use them. The people there are religious fanatics," he says in a rapid staccato. "Israel is under existential threat, and that is how Israel's military and political leaders must see the situation." In a 2007 essay, Morris, a professor of history at Ben-Gurion University, imagined a "second holocaust": nuclear-tipped Iranian missiles raining down on Haifa and Tel Aviv. "A million or more Israelis ... will die immediately," he predicted.
That is not the sort of language one expects from an icon of the left and an intellectual lodestar for supporters of the Palestinians. But Morris, 60, like much of the Israeli left, has grown ever more cynical about the prospects for a two-state solution and for peace. In his new book, One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict, Morris argues that the Palestinian national movement has never in fact reconciled itself to Israel's existence as a Jewish state. His shift from Oslo Accords optimist to embittered pessimist is emblematic of the disappointment and frustration that has ravaged the Israeli left since the second intifada. "Morris is a one-man microcosm of what many Israeli Jews of the Labor-Zionist strain have undergone in the past decade," says David B. Green, opinion editor at Ha'aretz's English edition. "They recognize that we're not on the verge of peace, that this conflict may not be resolvable, and that they were naive to think that was the case."
Educated at Cambridge University, Morris started his career in the late 1970s as a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, at that time a left-leaning newspaper. In 1987, he published his first book, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949, making an international name for himself. Morris's rigorous account of how the exodus of 60 percent of Palestine's Arabs during the 1948 war was the result both of self-induced flight and forced expulsion by Jewish military forces challenged official Israeli dogma, and ultimately helped shape the intellectual and cultural climate that birthed the Oslo peace process.
"Many Jews in Israel wanted to stick to the official version of events, but Morris forced them not to be so smug and self-righteous about the past," says Hebrew University historian Alexander Yakobson. Throughout the mid-1990s, Morris continued to express his hope that an honest reckoning with the history of the conflict might help reconcile Arabs and Israelis.
But Morris's optimism was first shattered in 2000 when Yasir Arafat rejected Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton's two-state proposals.
"Not only did they say no, but they launched a terroristic and guerrilla war against both the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and Israel itself, suggesting that they are not just after the territories but want to drive the Jews out of Palestine," Morris says. His dismay was further exacerbated when Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 failed to staunch Palestinian violence. "The moment Israel pulled out from a chunk of Arab territory, as the Arabs have always been demanding, it turned into a base for rocket attacks," fumes Morris, who went to jail for three weeks in 1987 for refusing to serve as an army reservist in the occupied territories. Now he believes that Palestinian irredentism is probably never going away.
Solidly built with a thick patch of graying curly hair, the brusque and opinionated Morris has a reputation as an indelicate spokesman for his own views. In an infamous 2004 interview with Ha'aretz, he advocated confining Palestinians in "something like a cage." At the time he explained: "I know that sounds terrible. It is really cruel. But there is no choice. There is a wild animal there that has to be locked up in one way or another." (Morris later apologized.)
This kind of blasphemy has alienated many of his former comrades on the left. Tom Segev, a prominent columnist, has suggested that Morris "flipped out" as a result of the suicide bombings that plagued Israel a few years ago. Historian Avi Shlaim has described Morris's embrace of the "orthodox Zionist rendition of the past" as "simplistic, selective, and self-serving." And Ilan Pappe, the most radical of the Israeli revisionist historians, has denounced Morris as a "bigoted thinker" and a "charlatan."
But Morris's opinions are manifest in a very real way in Israeli politics. Consider the election results from February. The Labor party, which dominated Israeli politics until 1977 and has been the traditional home of the Zionist left, came in fourth with a meager 13 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, its worst showing in the history of the state. Meretz, the other "major" left-wing party, garnered a pathetic three seats. This latest outcome is hardly an aberration: The center-right has won every election since Barak was voted out of the prime minister's office in 2001.
And reconciliation with the Palestinians is starting to seem like a dream from a bygone era, even to Morris. "Talk to any Palestinian; they don't know about the Jewish past, and Jewish suffering doesn't interest them," he says. "They believe that Jews have no legitimate right [to] be here. That belief underlines their vision that Palestine must be all Arab and must be regained by them down the road." Morris takes a sip of carrot juice and continues: "The peace camp has been tragically undermined by Arab recalcitrance. When an Israeli politician campaigns on a plan to broker a two-state solution, the Israeli public is no longer interested because they know the other side doesn't want it. So they vote for Netanyahu or someone else who speaks in terms of conflict management rather than solutions."
Discredited by events, the left has fractured into various currents; but its collapse has not brought triumph for the right. To a large extent, the peace camp is a victim of its own success; its central policy -- two states for two peoples -- has become the common coin of Israeli politics. "Partition is no longer a left-wing position," Yakobson says. "There are very few rational people on the right who doubt that if the Israeli public is convinced that getting out of the West Bank will bring peace, a clear majority will support withdrawal." Pointing to the rise of the centrist Kadima party, which comprises primarily disillusioned Likudniks, Yakobson adds that its leader, Tzipi Livni, is "more forthcoming as far as concessions to the Palestinians than Yitzhak Rabin was in the early 1990s." Even Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's extreme-right foreign minister, supports a two-state solution. And it is likely that Prime Minister Netanyahu will soon bow to political reality and at least pay lip service to the two-state paradigm. (Of course, professing support for the creation of a Palestinian state is not the same as pursuing policies that make it more likely that one will come about.)
But, although Morris remains a committed two-stater, voting for Meretz and Labor, he's not so sure anymore that a two-state solution is realistic: "Jewish Israeli society and Palestinian Arab society are in a different place in terms of history, culture, and values," he says. "You can see this most clearly in Muslim terrorism around the world, and their attitude towards women and intellectuals. Add to that a long history of violence and hatred over the last 100 years, not to mention different languages and a different God. It is inconceivable that a society of Jews and Arabs could function right now as one state in Palestine." Moreover, he doesn't believe that the narrow parcel of land sandwiched between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea can be partitioned along the lines proposed by Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton in 2000. "The West Bank and Gaza are not sufficient for the Palestinian's needs; they need more space to resettle the diaspora of refugees who want to come home." So Morris advocates attaching the West Bank and Gaza to Jordan -- which is today majority Palestinian -- and making that combined entity the Palestinian state. Such an arrangement, he says, has a better chance of defusing the forces of Palestinian militarism and revanchism.
But won't such a scheme be fiercely opposed both by Palestinian nationalists and the monarchy of Jordan? "There are a number of large obstacles, but there are large obstacles in the path of any solution," Morris shrugs and leans back in his chair. From where he sits the Netanyahu government isn't going to push for real advances in the peace process. Not to mention that most Israelis are deeply suspicious of the Saudi initiative, which purports to offer Israel full recognition and permanent peace with the Arab states in return for a withdrawal to the 1967 border, the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and, perhaps most thorny, "an agreed, just solution" to the Palestinian refugee problem.
"Israel needs to get out of the Palestinians' hair," Morris says, returning to first principles. "Let them rule themselves, and give them a large enough country so that they don't feel extremely motivated to expand at Israel's expense." As a stab at optimism, such a gruff sentiment spoke only to the chastened expectations of the Israeli left -- and to the distance Morris has come over the last decade.

Evan R. Goldstein is staff editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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Did Roosevelt try to save Jews?

A new book, "Refugees and Rescue," tries to advance the claim that FDR had plans and desires to save the Jews of Europe from the Holocaust.  For example, the book claims FDR developed plans in 1938 for the United States to fill its immigration quota with 27,000 Jews from Germany and Austria and to send others to British-held Palestine and friendly nations in Africa and Latin America. The plan to fill the quota with Jews is already known and was touted as a US concession at the disastrous Evian Conference. However, the number of people who might be saved in this way was minuscule compared to the need, and other plans of Roosevelt to send Jews to someone else's territory were more typical  - everyone wanted someone else to take in Jews, but nobody would do it. There is no doubt that Roosevelt at least saw a political need to make the proper noises about Jews, since the  Evian Conference was convened at his initiative. However, he did not use his political clout to change US immigration laws, did not allow the immigrant ship SS St. Louis into the United States, and evidently ignored information about murder of Jews that was available as earlier as 1941. The claim that Roosevelt was "powerless" to bring about changes seems ludricrous, as he could pass a lot of other very controversial legislation. When the US was supplying Lend Lease equipment to Britain, Roosevelt had an infinitely powerful lever over British policy in Palestine, yet he did not use it to force Britain to reverse the illegal prohibition on Jewish immigration to Palestine of the White Paper, It is true that in 1944, Roosevelt helped in organizing some belated immigration from Europe. By then, it was too late of course.
Roosevelt's execrable record regarding the the rescue of the Jews is an aching sore in the political identity of American Jews, many of whom had idolized him. But the facts should not be hidden by wishful thinking. 
 The book is reviewed here.   

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, May 1, 2009

What happens to Obama if Iran goes nuclear?

Ari Shavit and Barry Rubin are convinced that Iran gets "the" bomb due to US incompetence, Barack Obama will be out of a job. With respect, it doesn't seem likely that any US president would lose an election over the issue of Iran getting nuclear weapons. Communist China and USSR got nuclear weapons. It didn't cause anyone to lose an election. Of course if Iran were to use the bomb, or use it to threaten the US or its direct interests, that might be a different matter. In the summer of 2006, 23% of US voters had never heard that there was a problem with Iranian nuclear development. It is not likely that this percentage has diminished that much. Likewise, the bomb is not the only problem. It is only a gadget - a means to an end. The real problem is that Iran has been showing great inegnuity and resourcefulness in subversion in Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Gaza, and that is only the beginning.

I do not think Ari Shavit is too pessimistic. He may be pushing the timetable, but without tough sanctions and perhaps an embargo, it is likely that Iran will have a nuclear weapon by 2012. 2010 is a bit early.

Ami Isseroff

Obama's Very Unhappy Future in the Middle East

Barry Rubin
Ari Shavit of Haaretz has written an important article that should be read widely. I'll also say I think he is too pessimistic but makes a hugely significant point.

The title tells it all: Obama in 2012, after he fails to deal with Iran

Briefly, he sketches out a near-term future based on President Barack Obama's current regional policy. Projecting "back" from the end of Obama's first term, Shavit writes that Iran obtained some nuclear weapons but had not (so far) used them.

I've also talked about what Iran having nuclear weapons means in terms of disaster for the region and world. It seems impossible to get governments, media, and analysts to talk about all these aspects aside from the potential use of this weapon against Israel. Failure to do so will be disastrous.

Shavit dramatizes the story with specifics: Smaller Gulf Arab states become virtual protectorates of Iran, Saudi Arabia buys nuclear weapons, Egypt is radicalized, Hizballah takes control of Beirut, Israel-Palestinian violence erupts. The price of oil surges upwards, Afghanistan goes up in flames, and Pakistan collapses.

What went wrong? "In the summer of 2009, the president had to make the most courageous decision of his life: to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. If Obama had decided…to impose a political-economic siege on Tehran, he would have changed the course of history [and]…prevented regional chaos, a worldwide nuclear arms race and an American decline."

I know that this will seem exaggerated to many people. But, then, they don't know the Middle East well enough.

This does not mean an attack on Iran is something to be urged, especially at present. It would be better to have a strong international effort using sanctions and other pressures. But it might be too late for that.  More: Obama's Very Unhappy Future in the Middle East

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Report: Case against ex-AIPAC staffers dropped

May 1, 2009
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- A source with intimate knowledge of the case against two ex-AIPAC staffers accused of passing along classified information says the case has been dropped.
Keith Weissman, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's former Iran analyst, and Steve Rosen, its former foreign policy chief, were charged under a rarely used section of the 1917 Espionage Act that makes it a crime for civilians to receive and distribute closely held defense information. Both men were later dismissed by AIPAC, with the organization claiming the two had violated its rules; Rosen, in turn has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against AIPAC.
Federal prosecutors reportedly had been considering dropping the criminal case in the wake of a number of recent judicial decisions that make the prosecution more difficult. Among these was an appeals court rejection of a prosecution request to review the trial judge's order that prosecutors make the case that the defendants harmed the United States and not merely benefited Israel. Some Democrats see the case as a piece with Bush-era efforts to expand government secrecy powers, but the Post quoted its sources as saying that the review would have occurred whether or not Barack Obama had won election as president.
The dropping of the case comes just days before the start Sunday of AIPAC's annual policy conference in Washington.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ex-IDF soldiers used to protect cruise ships from pirates

Last update - 02:01 01/05/2009       
Ex-IDF soldiers increasingly used to protect cruise ships from pirates
By Yossi Melman
Pirates attacked the Italian cruise ship Melody, carrying more than 1,500 passengers and crew, 1,000 kilometers off Somalia last Saturday, but were repelled by Israeli security guards on board. The security guards fired over the pirates' heads, forcing them to retreat.
This was the first time that a ship's crew fought back after being attacked in the pirate-infested waters between Somalia and the Seychelles, rather than giving in to the robbers. In the unclarity surrounding the incident, more than one party tried to claim the success, and one unconfirmed report said that Israeli "commando units" were involved in the incident.
The truth, as usual, was far less heroic. The "heroes" were members of the ship's Israeli security team, employed by Mano International Security, an Israeli company specializing in maritime security services.
Company owner Mano Nik (Nikfahama) returned from Italy yesterday, where he participated in a preliminary investigation of the incident. "The guys acted exactly according to the regulations and I'm proud of them," Nik told Haaretz yesterday.
He refused to give more details, however. "The company has been working for 22 years covertly, and has no interest in exposure," he said.
Six pirates in a boat reportedly approached the Melody at night and opened fire, throwing ladders onto the ship's hull with the intention of hijacking it. But the Israeli security guards fired back and after a 10-minute gunfire exchange drove the marauders off.
The ship's captain, Ciro Pinto, said the guards fired in the air to drive off the pirates, but a member of one of the pirate gangs operating in the area was cited saying that one pirate had been hit. "It was the first time we have encountered resistance," the Somali bandit was quoted as saying.
After the attack the Melody continued its cruise accompanied by a Spanish warship. It may dock at Aqaba port tomorrow on its way to the ship's home base in Genoa in northern Italy. A Spanish fleet ship this week reportedly intercepted the boat carrying the pirates suspected of attacking the Melody, but this has not been verified.
According to some sources, Mano Nik served as a major in the Israel Air Force, where he dealt with air security. After his release he began his civilian career as a ship's security guard, eventually becoming the owner of an international company registered in Europe. The Petah Tikva-based company's Web site says its clients include MSC Cruises, the Italian company that owns the Melody cruise ship. A picture of the Melody appears on the Web site.
The security guards who saved the Melody, like those on many passenger ships worldwide, are mostly young Israelis after their military service, for whom this is a well-paid temporary job. Many of them are not former navy men, and certainly not naval commandos. "The job requirements include combatant military service but it doesn't matter what kind," a source who worked in the field and wishes to remain anonymous told Haaretz.
The Israeli security guards' tasks on cruise ships are varied. They must protect the ship from pirates or terrorists, but also act as security officers against thieves and keep the order, especially if there is a casino on board.
Mano security guards won praise already 15 years ago after extracting passengers of the Italian ship Achille Lauro, which was hijacked in 1985 by Palestinian terrorists and set alight.
Due to the complexity of international law, ship security guards do not always carry weapons. Sometimes the weapons are kept in the captain's safe until it is necessary to take them out. The quantities and types of weapons are determined by the company's policy and the risks facing the ship. Nobody wants to speak about the legal aspects. The most dangerous shipping lanes for piracy are in West Africa off Nigeria, the Malacca Straits in Southeast Asia, and the seas off the Somali-Yemeni coasts. Mano International Security's clients include Greek and Italian cruise companies. Israeli security guards and experts are in high demand in maritime security due to their experience, reputation and military training. Large shipping companies like Royal Caribbean, in which the Ofer brothers are partners, or the Arison family's Carnival Cruise Line and the Italian Costa Cruises have their own security departments. However, they employ many Israelis as security guards, especially as team heads. Many of these guards served in the Israel Navy, but others are former Shin Bet security service operatives, or served in the Mossad or police force.
Other Israeli companies specializing in maritime security include Eli Leffler's Hashita and former Air Force commander Micha Ram's Spike. International awareness of the importance of maritime security increased in the past year after pirates hijacked some 400 boats, ships and yachts, says Leffler.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Bibi and America; Barack and Israel

Obama and Israel finds that the Obama administration doesn't really have a firm Middle East policy yet, giving Israel an opportunity to shape it. But
Netanyahu and the United States shows that Israel doesn't have a policy yet either, and discusses what that policy ought to be.
"Never mind what they say. What is important is what we will do."


Continued (Permanent Link)

Israelis optimistic about Israel's future and 90% rate state achievements "good"

An interesting and discouraging finding is that more Arabs want to remain in Israel than do Jews. If Israel is an apartheid oppressive state, why do 94% of Israeli Arabs want to stay here?  


War and Peace Index


April 2009


Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann


On the eve of the state of Israel's 61st Independence Day, despite all the security, economic, social, and political difficulties and despite the gloomy analyses in the media, the Jewish public is in a very good mood, with over 80% defining their personal mood as "very good" or "moderately good." About two-thirds also assess the mood of the public as a whole as "very good" or "moderately good." A segmentation of the answers to the questions on personal mood by voting for the Knesset shows that 75% or more of the voters for all the parties define their mood as well as the national mood as "very good" or "moderately good"; the exception is the voters for Torah Judaism, only half (personal) and about one-quarter (national) of whom feel that way. A segmentation of the data by age, sex, religiosity, and income showed no gaps between the different groups. In other words, statistically at least, what we have here is a significant finding.


 As for general assessments of the state's achievements so far, the picture is even rosier: close to 90% of the Jewish public rate the state's achievements since its establishment as "very good" or "moderately good." Expectations about the future are also positive: 81% are "very optimistic" or "moderately optimistic" about the future of the state of Israel. Not surprisingly, then, 81% of the Jewish interviewees say that if given the choice to live in Israel or a different country, they would choose to continue to live in Israel.


Interestingly, in the Arab public as well both personal mood and assessment of the state's achievements tend to be positive, though to a lesser degree than in the Jewish public. Fifty-one percent of the Arab citizens define their mood as "very good" or "moderately good" (36% as "moderately bad" or "very bad"). Forty-nine percent of this sector also see the public's mood as a whole as positive (30% see it as "moderately bad" or "very bad"), and about two-thirds view the achievements of the state as "very good" or "moderately good." As for optimism about the future and desiring to live in Israel compared to elsewhere, about two-thirds of the Arab interviewees were optimistic about the country's future and an absolute majority- 94%-wanted to continue living in Israel.


If you had the choice, would you continue to live in Israel or would you move to another country?


Jews: live in Israel 81% Move to another country 14% Don't know 5%


Arabs live in Israel 94% Move to another country 2% Don't know 4%%


However, along with this satisfaction, other data make the picture more complex and less encouraging. Among the Jewish interviewees, a clear majority-71%-think people used to care more about the country than they do today (though 61% of the Jewish interviewees report no difference in the degree of their own concern about the country. Interestingly, the Arab interviewees think people care more about the country today than in the past and also report an increase in their personal concern). And when it comes to specific issue areas, the balance between the state's successes and nonsuccesses over the years tends to be more negative than positive, with the only emphatically positive assessment being in the military-security sphere-here 81% think the state has "greatly succeeded" or "moderately succeeded." In certain areas the assessments are lower but still positive: as for creating a stable and modern economy as well as for cultivating the Jewish heritage-59%; creating a proper democratic system-53%. In many other areas, however, the scale leans to the negative: only 46% think the state has succeeded in creating a sense of unity among the people; scoring impressive achievements in the fields of science and technology- 38% (a particularly sharp decline compared to measurements in previous years); achieving social equality -31%; achieving civic equality for Arabs-28%; advancing peace-27%.


The gap between the general and specific assessment of achievements can be interpreted in one of two ways: either the main factor influencing the Jewish public is the success in the military-security sphere, with the general and specific assessments falling in line; or the whole is greater than the sum of its parts-that is, the public is aware of the specific nonsuccesses but still sees the state of Israel as a success overall. Although somewhat less so, overall the Arab public's assessments of the state's achievements in the different fields are very similar to those of the Jewish public (including the emphasis on achievements in the military sphere). Here too the general assessment-with two-thirds, as noted, saying the state has succeeded on the whole- is higher than the assessment of all the issue areas combined.


The most worrisome finding, though, is the (low) degree of trust in the different institutions: 91% of the Jewish public currently put trust in the IDF, but only 57% put trust in the Supreme Court, 43% in the media, 39% in the police, 34% in the government, 30% in the Knesset, and just 21% in the political parties. In the Arab sector the data are slightly better except for trust in the IDF, which is low at 22%. Scoring highest in the Arab public is the Supreme Court with 67% trust, followed by the media at 55%, the Knesset at 40%, the police at 33%, and the political parties and the government at 31%.


The Negotiations Index for this month is: 50.4 for the entire sample (Jewish sample- 48.7).


 The War and Peace Index is funded by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research and the Evens Program in Mediation and Conflict Resolution of Tel Aviv University. The telephone interviews were conducted by the B. I. Cohen Institute of Tel Aviv University on April 21-22, 2009 and included 600 interviewees who represent the adult population of Israel (including the territories and the kibbutzim). The sampling error for a sample of this size is 4.5%.



IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis Website



Continued (Permanent Link)

Netanyahu to pay homage to Mubarak

Netanyahu will visit Mubarak on Mubarak's terms. Of course, if Lieberman had not told Mubarak to go to hell, it would have been less fun, but it would not have provided Egypt with an opportunity to humiliate Israel.
Last update - 23:35 30/04/2009       
Netanyahu to meet Mubarak before U.S. visit
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, and Reuters
Benjamin Netanyahu will make his first trip to Egypt as Israeli prime minister during the first half of May for talks with President Hosni Mubarak, before his scheduled visit to the U.S. to meet President Barack Obama.
In the month since Netanyahu took office, there have been signs of strain between Israel and Egypt, mostly over the appointment of hard-liner Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister.
Lieberman once cursed Mubarak from the parliament podium for refusing to visit Israel.
Mubarak last week said Lieberman would not accompany Netanyahu on any visit to Egypt.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark 27 years since Israel's withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula under the terms of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, Mubarak said that "the Israeli prime minister will come only with the head of his bureau, and will not bring any extra ministers."
A communique issued by the prime minister's bureau said he accepted an invitation from Mubarak for talks before Netanyahu's trip to Washington to see President Barack Obama, set tentatively for May 18.
An exact place and date for the Mubarak-Netanyahu meeting have not been set, the statement said...


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Iran Nukes: Life is temporary and ineffective

Mr. Gates seems to be unaware of the dictum of John Maynard Keynes: "In the long run, we are all dead."  It may not be such a long run after all.

Gates: Military option in Iran will be temporary, ineffective

Apr. 30, 2009 staff and AP , THE JERUSALEM POST

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday said that the military option for forcing Iran to halt its nuclear program would be just temporary and ineffective and that sanctions make more sense.

Gates told the US Senate appropriators Thursday that a military attack on Iran would merely send that country's nuclear program further underground. Instead, he said, the United States and its allies must convince Teheran that its nuclear ambitions will spark an arms race that will leave the country less secure.

Gates and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the US should work with its allies on tougher international sanctions. Gates also said that the US should pursue partnerships with Russia on missile defense programs in the region to further isolate Iran and to give Teheran economic and diplomatic reasons to voluntarily abandon its nuclear interests.

In a meeting with Marine Corps students in mid April Gates conceded that a strike might delay the Iranian nuclear program by as much as three years, but said that it would also unify Iran and "cement determination to have a nuclear program."

Iran's acquisition of a nuclear bomb could be prevented only if the "Iranians themselves decided it's too costly," he said.

Greer Fay Cashman contributed to this report


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Indivious comparison: Jewish UCSB prof compared Israel to Nazis

He didn't just "compare" them, he implied they are the same. A common misuse of the verb "compare."  The real news is that he is being probed. Such "comparisons" (or rather equivalence assertions)  have become routine by now.
The University of California, Santa Barbara, is investigating allegations of improper conduct and anti-Semitism against a professor who compared Israel's treatment of Palestinians to the Holocaust.
Sociology professor William I. Robinson sent an e-mail to 80 of his students in January that contained photos of Jews killed by the Nazis and similar photos of Palestinians killed in the recent Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip. The e-mail used the terms concentration camp and genocide when referring to Gaza.

Two Jewish students quit the class and filed complaints. Jewish groups also have complained.
Robinson, who is Jewish, argues that he was within his rights of academic freedom to challenge students with controversial topics.

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British airline BMI apologizes for deleting Israel from map - but are they telling the truth?

One version of this incident is below. However, a different version claims that the map that doesn't show Israel is used by BMI in flights to other countries in the Middle East.
Last update - 19:34 30/04/2009       
British airline apologizes for deleting Israel from map
By Haaretz Service and The Associated Press
British airline BMI apologized Thursday for deleting Israel from an electronic map that appears on its flights.
Army Radio reported earlier that BMI's London-Tel Aviv flights, Israel and most of its cities weren't marked in order to avoid angering Muslim passengers. Only Haifa was identified - by its Arab name, Khefa.
In its apology, BMI said the plane bearing the map was acquired from a now-defunct airline that flew to several Arab countries in the Middle East, and the map highlighted locations including the Muslim holy city of Mecca.
BMI says the airline asked for the map to be removed once it took over the planes, but there had been a technical mistake.
The airline will provide new maps and BMI will use different aircraft in the meantime for its twice-daily flights to Israel.
BMI also said it was making every effort not to hurt passengers' feelings by adopting a nonpolitical position.
BMI operates flights from England to many popular Muslim destinations, including Syria, Lebanon and Iran, but has also recently launched an agreement with the Tourism Ministry to add Israel to its roster.

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Lovers' quarrel: Hamas miffed at UNRWA

An editorial in the Hamas daily Filastin has branded UNRWA chief John Ging as a puppet of the United States and Israel, which is not a good thing to be in Palestinian society. How could this be, when the UN and UNRWA have bent over backwards to help the Palestinian cause? Wasn't UNRWA created to perpetuate the Palestine refugee problem? Didn't the UN falsely insist that Israel shelled UNRWA facilities in opration Cast Lead?
1. The Hamas daily Felesteen has recently published an editorial by Mustafa Sawaf, its editor-in-chief, railing against the UNRWA chief in the Gaza Strip, John Ging. Titled "John Ging and the Destruction of the Aid Agency [UNRWA]", the article argues that the UNRWA chief follows his own political agenda, and that his agenda is opposed to that of the "resistance" (i.e., Hamas and the other terrorist organizations). Mustafa Sawaf accuses the UNRWA chief of collaborating with Israel and the US , and of corrupting the morals of the Palestinian people by teaching Western values in UNRWA schools (such values include mixed gender education, for example). Even worse, according to the article, is the threat to lay off UNRWA officials on grounds of belonging to Hamas or other terrorist organizations (even though that threat is not carried into effect). 1 The article calls on John Ging to resign and contains threatening overtones (see Appendix for the article and its translation).
2. The harsh article which appeared in the Hamas organ followed on the heels of a long period of tension between the two sides, mainly triggered by the differences over the distribution of aid to the Palestinian population during and after Operation Cast Lead. The lashing out originates in the Hamas policy, which strives for total control of the Gaza Strip and would like to see Islamic religious codes imposed on the civilian population there. It therefore considers UNRWA to be a Western style source of power which hinders its objectives. Hamas, therefore, strives to make UNRWA's role devoid of any actual meaning and control its educational, social, and humanitarian activities in order to make political and financial profit, reducing UNRWA'S role to technical execution.
3. During Operation Cast Lead, Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip had no qualms about taking advantage of UNRWA's educational and social institutions for military needs, even though UNRWA did not directly address the issue nor accuse Hamas. Terrorist organizations often set up military positions, training camps, and rocket and mortar launchers near buildings which belonged to UNRWA, mainly schools. In addition, during and after Operation Cast Lead Hamas and UNRWA had strong disagreements over the distribution of food to Gaza Strip residents, which was reflected in Hamas's stealing of food and property from UNRWA warehouses and mutual accusations between the two sides (see Appendix B for details).
Appendix A
John Ging and the Destruction of the [UN] Aid Agency [UNRWA]
(by Mustafa al-Sawaf, Felesteen, April 16, 2009 )
It appears that John Ging, the Irishman in charge of the international relief agency [UNRWA] and the military man who served as an officer in Afghanistan —which alone is enough to raise dozens of questions about him— has a political agenda with him. He started to implement that agenda, forgetting that he was in a Palestine that resists, a Palestine belonging to the [various] forces and parties, a Palestine of political affiliation.
It is small wonder that the position he fulfills is manned only after American and Israeli elements conduct an inspection [about the candidate]. It appears that he passed that inspection and was charged with the political agenda which he set out to implement. That man meddles in affairs in which he has no expertise, attempting to gain control of many issues which fall outside of the agency's responsibility and the goal for which it was founded.
It is [particularly] curious that this man wants to corrupt the values of this institution. By promoting that corruption, he is defiling a conservative, clean society. A testimony to that effect is his rushed efforts to introduce the culture of mixed gender education in schools. His most dangerous philosophy is the one pertaining to mixed gender summer camps, on which he has made numerous comments, as well as entertainment and music parties [which he promotes] in an occupied society which is under attack, as part of what is known as "Family Day". On that day, UNRWA's officials are supposed to come with their families and throw mixed gender wild parties, which is not fit for a conservative, Oriental, Muslim society living in an atmosphere of war and destruction.
This is not the place to discuss his educational philosophy and the curricula he has introduced and the implementation of testing [in UNRWA schools] which he has started, without taking into consideration the character of the society and without coordinating with the responsible authorities in the Gaza Strip Ministry of Culture and Education [i.e., with the Hamas officials]. What drew particular attention was the threat of layoffs on grounds of political affiliation which he made against the agency's employees following the recent elections held in it, [which took place] as they had for decades—a highly unusual thing which must be deeply examined.
This official of the aid agency [John Ging] should know that laying off the agency employees because of their political affiliation means laying off all the employees of the aid agency, because they are all affiliated [with some political organization]. If they are not members of parties and organizations, they belong to this resisting homeland, i.e., they are all members of the "resistance", in its various forms [i.e., terrorist organizations]. Not only the officials, Ging, belong [to organizations and parties], but also school children. If you asked or polled them, you would see that the vast majority belong to political organizations and parties of [political] affiliation. Will you fire them too, [denying] their right to receive education in the agency's schools? You must act within the confines [of your authority]. You know that you are just an official in an agency belonging to the United Nations. You came here to serve the refugees, who were expelled [from their homeland] and who immigrated here due to political reasons, and political reasons alone. How can you prevent them from engaging in politics? Politics is the first and last thing [on their minds] as long as they are refugees expelled from their homes and their homeland. They all act in order to return to them [that is, to implement the so-called "right of return"] and there is no return without "resistance" [i.e., terrorism] and there is no return without politics.
The editorial (Felesteen, April 16, 2009 ) 
You should know, and I think you do, because you are neither ignorant nor fool. You are in the occupied, stolen land of Palestine , which resists the occupation. That is the fundamental characteristic of the Palestinian people. If you don't like it, or if that does not sit well with your superiors, who appointed you, we in Palestine have no interest in your cause or your agenda, because we have an agenda of our own. We advise you not to gamble on this international institution. You must act within the confines of your authority, you have no political role. If that is what you are, this is not the place for you. Go look for another place for yourself. You are playing with fire and risking your future [i.e., a threatening tone]. Either you deal with what [actually] exists and what is dictated by geography and politics, or go back to your country, and you may be persecuted as an officer like the mercenary officers who take part in the crimes in Afghanistan , Darfur, and Iraq .
You should understand that you—through your agenda—are wrong, because we are a people who seek liberation. If you don't want that, that's your business. Leave us alone. If you are determined to pursue your agenda, you are asking for more than you can handle, no matter what tools or positions you equip yourself with. We advise you to act in the interests of the Palestinian people and according to the agenda of the Palestinian people. If you can't, take leave of us, and there shall remain peace between us and you.

The report has photos and additional noted that can be viewed in the original: Hamas lashes out against the UNRWA chief in the Gaza Strip 

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J-Street thinks it understands Obama better than Obama on Iran sanctions


J Street tries reading Obama's mind (but forgets to look at his record)

J Street has sent out a mass e-mail opposing a bipartisan push in Congress for tougher sanctions on Iran. Here's the relevant passage:

On Iran, the President is promoting tough, direct diplomacy to address concerns over their nuclear program, support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and threats against Israel. The President has made clear that the diplomatic road ahead will be tough -- but the chances of success won't be helped by Congress imposing tight timelines or a new round of sanctions at this moment.

Yet, just this week, the Orwellian-named "Iran Diplomacy Enhancement Act" was introduced in the House -- a bill that in reality does nothing to "enhance diplomacy" but instead imposes further sanctions on Iran, directly undercutting the President's diplomatic message.

The only thing Orwellian here is J Street's implication that lawmakers are undercutting the Obama administration by pushing for sanctions. Senator/presidential candidate Obama could not have been clearer on this subject: He favored stepped up diplomacy and tougher sanctions -- they were two halves of a comprehehsive policy that he was marketing as a shift from the Bush administration. Dennis Ross -- a top campaign surrogate in the Jewish community who Obama then tapped as the administration's point man on Iran -- was fond of stressing the need for stronger carrots and stronger sticks (and not necessarily in that order).

At a briefing just a few weeks before the election, I asked Ross if once Obama were to reach the White House, would he suddenly come around to President Bush's point of view, which was that Congress should simply take its cues on sanctions from the administration. Ross' response: As a negotiator on Israeli-Arab issues, he found it useful to be able to warn interlocutors that the only way to head off tough measures in Congress was to procude solid results at the negotiating table.

And Senator/candidate Obama wasn't just looking for Congress to take tougher action. His proposed legislation was aimed at making it easier for pension plans to divest from Iran. In other words, his goal was to unleash a growing, grassroots, hard-to-control divestment movement that would serve as a backdrop to negotiations.

It's always possible that Obama will end up filp-flopping on this issue, now that he is the one sitting in the Oval Office, but until then... J Street may or may not be right that the mostly good cop approach is better than the carrots-and-sticks strategy, but this much is clear: By coming out against sanctions, J Street is the one undermining Obama's Iran policy.

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How Nazis became Nazis

Ordinary people....
A new German film turns the spotlight on a man many in the country would rather forget: Veit Harlan, director of infamous Nazi propaganda movie "Jud Suess," a wartime hit which helped set the tone for the Holocaust.
"Harlan - Im Schatten von Jud Suess" (Harlan - In the Shadow of 'Jew Suess'), which recently opened in Germany, focuses on the filmmaker's most notorious work, looking back at his output through the eyes of the extended family he left behind.
Director Felix Moeller told Reuters that by shooting the documentary he had hoped not only to explore the previously "taboo" subject of Harlan, but also how the family had dealt with the legacy of his work for Adolf Hitler's regime.
"Our history as a nation under Nazism has been researched in great depth. But a lot of families still haven't done anything to find out what went on inside them," said Moeller, 43.
In interviews with Harlan's surviving children and grandchildren, the film presents a broad spectrum of responses to living with the stigma of such a controversial forbear.
Harlan's eldest son recalls how he tried to get his father to take responsibility for the films, while a younger brother refuses to discuss the matter publicly. Other children changed their names just so they could find jobs after the war.
"Jud Suess", which opened in September 1940, was compulsory viewing for Heinrich Himmler's SS and was shown to local populations in countries under Nazi occupation prior to mass deportations of Jews, according to the German Historical Museum.
With a cast of characters that play on popular stereotypes, the film charts the rise and fall of wily Jewish businessman Joseph Suess Oppenheimer, who uses money to buy power and influence among his Christian masters in 18th century Germany.
He gradually ensnares the Duke of Wuerttemberg in a web of debt to take control of the state, and rapes a Christian woman before the people rise up to take vengeance on him.
Harlan, whose Jewish first wife later died in Auschwitz, claimed after the war Goebbels had forced him to direct, and refused to take responsibility for "Suess" and other Nazi films.
"It is disputed," said Moeller. "Some say Harlan resisted but there's also considerable evidence that he saw 'Jud Suess' as a big chance for his career and was happy to work on it."
Harlan himself was no genuine anti-Semite, Moeller said.
"It's like [his son] Thomas Harlan said: that was the bad thing - he was the guy who sharpened the knife, without actually being an anti-Semite himself," he said.
Alongside "Der Ewige Jude" [The Eternal Jew], the melodrama is probably the best-known piece of anti-Jewish cinema produced under the auspices of Joseph Goebbels' propaganda ministry.
In his diaries, Goebbels recorded his delight at the movie, writing: "We couldn't wish for a better anti-Semitic film."
Commercial broadcasts of the film are still forbidden in Germany, where it can only be shown under tight restrictions.
Harlan was tried for crimes against humanity after the war but the presiding judge, a former Nazi jurist, acquitted him and he was carried on the shoulders of his supporters from the court room. A second attempt to prosecute him also failed.
To shoot his film, Moeller brought together members of the Harlan family, some of whom had never met before. Among them was his granddaughter Jessica, whose mother had married a Jew.
"On one side she had a Jewish grandfather and on the other, Veit Harlan: victim and perpetrator within one family," he said.
Harlan's niece Christiane married the late U.S. film director Stanley Kubrick, who was of Jewish descent. Her brother Jan went on to help produce many of Kubrick's films.
In the new film, Kubrick's widow recalls how her husband had to drink a glass of vodka before he was ready to meet Harlan.
Married three times, Harlan continued to direct films after the war but never with the same success. He died in 1964.
Though it is nearly 70 years since the release of "Suess", Moeller felt the film could still be exploited by neo-Nazis.
"I think the potential negatives probably outweigh the benefits you could get from allowing it to be shown today."

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Seven Israeli Arabs arrested in plot to kidnap IDF soldiers

Last update - 13:02 30/04/2009       
7 Israeli Arabs suspected of plotting to kidnap IDF soldiers
By Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz Correspondent
Seven Israeli Arab suspects, including two minors, were arrested recently on suspicion of planning terror attacks and attempting to kidnap Israel Defense Forces soldiers.
Authorities had maintained a gag order over the case, which prevented media outlets from releasing details about the case until Thursday.
The indictments against the suspects include charges of aiding the enemy during wartime, contacting a foreign agent, conspiracy, and multiple weapons charges.
The suspects were arrested in a joint operation by police and the Shin Bet Security Service. During searches of the suspects' homes, authorities found nine explosive belts ready to be detonated and information on their computers that implicated them in the plot.
Police said that the group was arrested shortly before executing their plot. Six of the suspects hail from the village Barta'a in the Wadi Ara region and one was from the northern village of Mrar.
In recent years, Israeli Arabs and Israeli identity card-carrying Palestinians in East Jerusalem have become increasingly involved in terrorist acts against various targets in the country.
Over the course of the last five years, there have been at least six documented instances of attacks committed by Israeli Arabs or East Jerusalem residents. Most of the assailants acted on their own volition and were not assisted by any organizational structure.
A group calling itself "Galilee Freedom Fighters" claimed responsibility for some of the attacks, yet defense officials have yet to determine whether the organization is real.
Officials in the security establishment believe most of the attacks were perpetrated by lone assailants, a fact which made it more difficult for the police and the army to gain information that would enable them to preemptively thwart the attack.

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Obama: The tragic flaw

This looks like a fairly reasonable prognostication, except that it is doubtful that Americans would get very upset about Iranian nuclear weapons unless it meant an increase in the price of gasoline.
Last update - 10:51 30/04/2009       
Obama in 2012, after he fails to deal with Iran
By Ari Shavit
Even now, in November 2012, it is hard not to think back with elation on Barack Obama's first year as president of the United States. In his first 100 days in the White House, the energetic president took a series of daring steps that extricated the American economy from its worst crisis since the 1930s. Immediately after that he put an end to torture, indicted Dick Cheney, convened a Middle East peace conference and made historic reconciliation visits to Havana, Damascus and Tehran.
Obama's economic and foreign policies were both based on a moral worldview that inspired Americans and non-Americans alike. After years of despair and cynicism, the 44th president proposed a new national and international agenda based on dialogue, demilitarization, justice and peace.
The first signs that something was wrong had already appeared at the end of that first year of grace. Nevertheless, Washington was astounded when, in the summer of 2010, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that he was expelling international inspectors and galloping full-tilt toward the production of nuclear weapons. The shock turned to horror on the eve of Christmas 2010, when Iran's spiritual leader, Ali Khamenei, stated that his country had its first three nuclear warheads - aimed at Riyadh, Cairo and Tel Aviv. 
Spring 2011 was dramatic. First a mutual defense treaty and an agreement to collaborate on oil exports were signed between Tehran and the fragile Baghdad government. Then Kuwait, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai bowed their heads and signed treaties that made them protectorates of the rising Shi'ite state. Saudi Arabia took the opposite approach: In May 2011, it announced that it had purchased nuclear weapons from Pakistan both for itself and for its ally Egypt. But Egypt's sudden nuclearization failed to appease the Muslim Brotherhood. Mass demonstrations forced President Hosni Mubarak to resign shortly after he suspended the peace agreement with Israel.
By Thanksgiving 2011, the situation was clear. Jordan's King Abdullah left for exile in London. Hezbollah took control of Beirut and a bloody war of attrition erupted between Israel and the Palestinians. The unrest in western Asia had repercussions on the rest of the international arena: Afghanistan went up in flames, Pakistan collapsed and Russia raised its head. In view of Washington's helplessness, some European states began to lean increasingly toward China. When the price of oil rose above $200 a barrel, the American economy plunged into another deep recession.
Obama had no chance in the snows of Iowa in 2012. So with Oprah Winfrey wiping a tear at his side, the most promising president ever announced he would not run for a second term.
What went wrong? Where did Obama go astray? In retrospect, the answer is clear and simple. In the summer of 2009, the president had to make the most courageous decision of his life: to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Granted, opting for confrontation would have been incompatible with the DNA of the liberal Democrat from Chicago. Ironically, however, only such a decision could have saved his legacy and advanced the noble values he believed in. Only that decision could have led to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. If Obama had decided three years ago to impose a political-economic siege on Tehran, he would have changed the course of history. The Roosevelt of the 21st century would have prevented regional chaos, a worldwide nuclear arms race and an American decline.
Yesterday, immediately after television networks announced the sweeping Republican victory of November 2012, close friends gathered around the outgoing president. They found him sad but sober. Obama had no doubts: Had he known at the beginning of his term what he knows now, he would have made a different strategic decision about Iran's nuclear program. If only it were possible to go back, the pensive president told his humbled chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. If only he could have made a different decision in the summer of 2009.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Barry Rubin on Israel at 61 - take-away messages

 The takeaway messages for me in Barry Rubin's Israel Independence day message  come at the end:

Indeed, the Israelites, hated in the previous era as an alleged threat to Western civilization, have now become hated as the embodiment of enlightened Western civilization.

And that hatred is the greatest compliment to Israel's success.

PS: If you love Israel and this applies to you, spend the next day or two thinking about why you're not here. If it doesn't apply to you, please ignore

Ami Isseroff

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Obama and US Foreign Policy

Barry Rubin wrote:
Only about June will the Obama administration start functioning smoothly in foreign policy though, of course, it has already laid out major themes.
If it does, it will be a rare achievement. The Reagan administration, Truman administration, and George Bush (son) administration never functioned smoothly in foreign policy. That is true also of the administrations of Lincoln, Wilson and Truman. That does not mean things were not accomplished in each case, but a lot of needless mistakes were made and there was a lot of needless wrangling. There is often continuous opposition between the White House and the State Department. If there is a war on, the Joint Chiefs of staff, the security apparatus and the Defense Department all put in their two cents, as do the rival intelligence groups. They not only argue about policy, they try to make it on their own through speeches and initiatives that are not necessarily authoritzed.
If President Obama can get on top of this anarchy and end it once and for all, that would be his most important contribution to United States Foreign Policy.
Ami Isseroff
 Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Who Runs U.S. Foreign Policy and Will it be Barack versus Hillary?

Barry Rubin
Only about June will the Obama administration start functioning smoothly in foreign policy though, of course, it has already laid out major themes. There is a strong sense of wanting to start over (reset); a desire to conciliate and apologize; to put a priority on engagement with enemies (which are far from being "former enemies" and are not likely to become such).

But you know all that.

There is also an element of continuity and pragmatism which is often missed by those who hate Obama and want to make things worse than they are (things are bad enough without exaggeration!).

To some extent, the more positive features are coming from the State Department. Why is that when the department has long been identified with a lot of bad things?  Part of the answer is that in recent years, the department has sabotaged or opposed presidents who were

--more to the center or center-right, now it is holding back a man who is the most left-wing president in American history.

--wanting to make small but necessary changes (even in a moderate liberal direction). Now it is holding back a president who wants to change far too much.

Having written a book that was a history of the foreign policymaking process--
Secrets of State-- which is the only one I know that tries to explain the mysteries of this system, let me say some things about what's going on now.

First, the White House doesn't have the time or staff to run foreign policy. It sets out themes and deals with high-level focal-point issues but the State Department (along with the Defense Department) have to handle international affairs. The institutional counter to that is the National Security Council but that requires a very strong national security advisor who has the president's ear plus a decisive (and it helps if he's knowledgeable) president. 
More: Who Runs U.S. Foreign Policy and Will it be Barack versus Hillary?

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Mass Rally for Human Rights on Sunday



New York , New York ,   April 29, 2009  -- Times Square in Manhattan will be the site of a mass gathering of human rights leaders and organizations this coming Sunday, May 3rd, at noon. The gathering will call for defeat of radical Islam and heighten awareness about the danger radical Islam poses to human rights across the globe.

The "Rally for Human Rights and Freedom," will be attended by Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim leaders and organizations.  Sponsored by the Human Rights Coalition Against Radical Islam (HRCARI) and dozens of other partner organizations, the event will feature a special ceremony to honor the US Military, Homeland Security, police, firefighters, emergency workers and others who have defended the United States from terror.   Peter Gadiel of the 9/11 Families.who lost his son on  9/11 will be present, as will a retired NYC police officer who lost his son-in-law on 9/11. 

The May 3rd event will mark the kick-off event for a new grassroots global action network that is taking on the fight against Radical Islam.  A HRCARI spokesperson notes, "As part of this initiative, we intend to educate elected officials to  helps prevent the spread of Shariah Islamic law. We will work to publicize the threat of Radical Islamic terrorist groups and their allies, and endeavor to protect the right to freedom of religion, and freedom of speech in the face of those who seek to silence advocates of human rights against the threat of Radical Islam."

HRCARI believes that Radical Islam is a worldwide threat against commonly accepted human rights and is the most urgent topic of our generation. 

The HRCARI rally coalition (still in formation) includes the 911 Families, ACT Manhattan, Aish Center, Americans for a Safe Israel, Alliance for Interfaith Resistance, AMCHA-Coalition for Jewish Concerns, Americans for Peace & Tolerance, American Center for Democracy, Arabs for Israel, Atlas Shrugs, Chinese Community Relations Council, The David Project, Fordham University School of Law's National Security and Law Society, Foundation Nepalese, Gathering of Eagles-NY, Hindu Human Rights Watch, Indian American Intellectuals Forum International Foundation of Bangladeshi Hindus, Iraq Model, Israpundit, Jewish Action Alliance, Mothers Against Terrorism, Namdari Sikh Foundation, R.E.A.L Courage, Sikh Recognition Trust, Snapped Shot, StandWithUS, Sudan Freedom Walk, Women United: Code Red, Zionist Organization of America.

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Why we celebrate Israel Independence day

inspired by an editorial in Ha'aretz.

Israel Independence Day Number 61 #1: Why we celebrate

Some people miss the point about Israeli independence day. Haaretz editors seem to think it is about "accrual of time" and suggest that "Perhaps now the time is ripe to let go of the euphoria over the country's very existence, the flip side of existential fear."

We are aware that for some Ha'aretz editors like Gideon Levy, the existence of Israel is not a cause for celebration. But celebration of the country's existence is necessary to motivate the rest of us, who do not share the views of the editors of Ha'aretz, to continue the struggle to rebuild the Jewish people, and to remind ourselves and our children why we are here, and why it is important to stay here and not, for example, to go live in the United States or Germany if we can earn a better living there. The great threat to Israel's existence, the real fear, is not an external threat, not Ahmedinajad's bomb or the Hamas, but an internal one. Israel was made possible only by a chance moment in history when most of the Jewish people united and understood that without a national existence, without a state, there would be no future for the Jewish people. Without Zionism, there cannot be an Israel. As long as the Jewish people have not completely made up their collective mind about who and what they are. Several Zionist leaders understood the importance of Jewish unity. Theodor Herzl told the delegates to the first Zionist congress:

Zionism has already managed to accomplish a wondrous thing, previously thought to be impossible: the firm bond between the most modern elements of of Judaism with the most conservative.

That "unity" was sadly illusory. Most Jews supported Zionism, but most Jewish leaders were opposed to it or indifferent. David Ben-Gurion said in 1944:

The second indispensable imperative of the Jewish revolution is the unity of its protagonists. This sharing together in a fate, a creative process, and a struggle is what unites this vanguard--the pioneers, the builders of the homeland, the workers of the land of Israel, who are inspired by the vision of a Jewish renaissance on humanistic, Zionist, and socialist foundations.

Sadly, even unity among the Zionists and their leaders was short lived and illusory. However, symbolic celebrations such as Independence Day serve to remind all of us, except perhaps the staff of Ha'aretz and people of similar views, of the unity of Zionist purpose. We have to make a big deal of Independence Day and of Zionist symbols, because if we do not make a big deal of Independence day, there will not be an Israel and there will be nothing to celebrate. The real purpose of the Zionist revolution was to make the Jews into a "nation like any other nation." This cannot be done by make believe. If the Jews pretend to be a nation like any other, when they are not, the results will be disastrous. There is no Greek or Italian or French Gideon Levy or Ilan Pappe or Neturei Karteh, people who are contemptuous of their own nation and gain a big following for inventing falsehoods and libels about it. As long as we have those people, we are not a normal people.

More - Israel Independence Day Number 61 #1: Why we celebrate


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Christians in Bethlehem fear Muslim backlash from Pope's visit

An interesting insight:

The pontiff may have to tread carefully with his visit to Nazareth. Many Muslims are still angry over a 2006 speech in which Benedict quoted a medieval text depicting the prophet as violent.

Even some Christians are nervous that Benedict could stir up trouble for them. They worry that if he says anything contentious about Islam again, Muslims might lash out.

"He must know that every word he will utter will have an impact on Christian Palestinians and religious relations," said Naim Ateek, an Anglican reverend and director of Sabeel, an ecumenical Palestinian Christian group that includes Catholics.

This fear governs the lives of all Christians in Muslim lands. Someone will say the wrong thing sometime somewhere, and they will be in trouble. Will any articles highlight these fears, rather than the imaginary persecution of Christians by Israelis? I doubt it.

Ami Isseroff


NAZARETH, Israel (AP) — A banner across the main square in Jesus' boyhood town condemns those who insult Islam's Prophet Muhammad — a message by Muslim hard-liners for Pope Benedict XVI during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land next month.

The pontiff may have to tread carefully with his visit to Nazareth. Many Muslims are still angry over a 2006 speech in which Benedict quoted a medieval text depicting the prophet as violent.

Even some Christians are nervous that Benedict could stir up trouble for them. They worry that if he says anything contentious about Islam again, Muslims might lash out.

"He must know that every word he will utter will have an impact on Christian Palestinians and religious relations," said Naim Ateek, an Anglican reverend and director of Sabeel, an ecumenical Palestinian Christian group that includes Catholics.

The banner was put up by followers of Nazem Abu Salim, a radical Muslim preacher, right next to the Church of the Annunciation, where tradition says the Angel Gabriel told Mary she would give birth to Jesus.

It is there for the pope, Abu Salim said. "He is not welcome here."

The banner — clearly visible from the church, which Benedict is to visit — trumpets a verse from the Quran declaring, "Those who harm God and His Messenger — God has cursed them in this world and in the hereafter, and has prepared for them a humiliating punishment."

Municipal official Suheil Diab wouldn't say if the banner, along with a small sign in English with the verse, would be removed before the pope arrives May 14.

Benedict plans to meet with Muslim leaders, though not Abu Salim, throughout his May 8-15 tour of the Holy Land, which includes stops in Jordan, the West Bank, Jerusalem and Nazareth, one of Israel's largest Arab cities.

Islamic leaders in Israel are divided over the visit.

One of the leading Muslim groups in Israel, the Northern Islamic Movement, is calling for a boycott of meetings unless Benedict apologizes for his 2006 remarks, said a spokesman, Zahi Nujeidat. The movement, which has not been invited to meet with the pontiff, can marshal thousands of supporters, but has not yet decided whether to stage protests.

Other Muslim clerics said they would sit down with Benedict but ask for an apology. One of those is Sheik Taysir Tamimi, a leading cleric in the Palestinian Authority, which has welcomed the pope's trip.

Muslims are a growing and increasingly assertive majority in Nazareth, which is 70 percent Muslim but has a communist mayor from the city's Christian community.

A decade ago, brawls erupted over Muslim attempts to build a mosque beside the Church of the Annunciation. The project was eventually thwarted. What remains is a stone-paved square and a small mosque, headed by Abu Salim.

Nazareth is one of the main cities for Israel's Arab minority, who make up around 20 percent of the country's 7 million people. Christians number around 120,000 of the Arab community, roughly half Catholic, half Eastern Orthodox.

Benedict's 2006 speech citing obscure medieval text that characterized some of Muhammad's teachings as "evil and inhuman" sparked protests in the West Bank and Gaza — though not in Israel. Attackers fired guns and threw firebombs at Palestinian churches.

Benedict later said the text did not reflect his views, but many Muslims believe he did not apologize properly.

In Nazareth, the pontiff is to visit the Church of the Annunciation, host an interfaith discussion and meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He'll also celebrate Mass on nearby Mount Precipice, where many Christians believe a mob pursued Jesus and tried to throw him from a cliff.

The pope will strive to improve interfaith relations throughout his tour, said Wadi Abunassar, a spokesman for the pontiff's visit.

Nazareth's local government has set aside $5 million to spruce up the crowded, shabby city overlooking the Galilee hills, hoping the papal visit will boost tourism, Mayor Ramiz Jaraisy said.

Few in Nazareth's bazaar show any excitement, however. Many remain bitter over Israel's offensive in Gaza against Hamas militants, which killed more than 1,000 Palestinians in December and January.

"People here are tired and exhausted from this situation," said Amin Ali, 72, an antique seller who described himself as a secular Muslim. "And nobody likes this pope, anyway."

Benedict should use his visit to censure Israel over Gaza and the lack of progress in reaching peace with the Palestinians, said Ateek, the Anglican reverend.

"If the pope is brave enough to do that, people will respect him more," Ateek said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Does anyone see a threat in Lebanon?

The inclusion of the Hezbollah in Lebanese politics did not improve Lebanese democracy. On the contrary. It spelled the end of Lebanese democracy. When one party has a private army and a tendency to make opponents explode, it has a tendency to get most of the votes. These "elections" should never have been allowed to proceed.

UN chief slams Hizbullah 'intimidation'

Apr. 28, 2009 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that Hizbullah is making an effort to create "intimidation" in Lebanon ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for June, AFP reported late Monday. He was also quoted as voicing concern for Hizbullah activities in Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

In a report to the UN Security Council, Ban said, "The threat that armed groups and militias pose to the sovereignty and stability of the Lebanese state cannot be overstated."

"It creates an atmosphere of intimidation in the context of the upcoming parliamentary elections. It also undermines the stability of the region, and is incompatible with the objectives of Resolution 1559," he added, referring to a 2004 resolution which called for the "disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias."

The UN chief described the groups arsenal as "a direct challenge to the sovereignty of the Lebanese state and an obstacle for the conduct of the normal democratic process in the country."

On Friday, Ban condemned what he said was Hizbullah's interference in the affairs of another country.

"I am alarmed that Hizbullah publicly admitted to providing support to Gaza-based militants from Egyptian territory," he said.

"Such activity indicates that Hizbullah operates outside Lebanese territory and beyond its stated national agenda. I condemn such unwarranted interference in the domestic affairs of a sovereign member state," he said.

Ban renewed his call for Hizbullah to disarm and to transform into "a solely political party."

The group has rejected local and foreign calls to disarm, saying its arsenal of weapons and rockets is needed to defend Lebanon against any Israeli attack.

AP contributed to this report


Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Surprise: Hamas and Fatah deadlocked over unity

Well OK. It is not a surprise.

Hamas and Fatah deadlocked over unity

Apr. 28, 2009
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST

Hamas and Fatah ended a fourth round of power-sharing talks without a deal Tuesday, but are to meet again on May 16, negotiators said.

The key stumbling block remains the political program of a Palestinian unity government that would be in power until elections are held in January 2010. Prospects of a breakthrough in the next round are slim.

The international community says it will only deal with a Palestinian government that recognizes Israel, a concession Hamas is unwilling to make.

Egyptian mediators propose that Hamas stay out of the transitional government and instead enable Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to run it.

As compensation, Hamas and other Palestinian factions would become part of an advisory committee that would be given a say in the government's decisions.

Fatah negotiator Nabil Shaath said the two teams met Tuesday with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who asked for a final response to the Egyptian compromise proposal when talks resume May 16.

"Now all the concentration is on the Egyptian proposal, which says that ... any government formed by President Abbas will conduct the contacts with the international community," Shaath said.

Shaath said Suleiman briefed the negotiators on his recent talks with Israeli officials, and on a meeting between US President Barack Obama and Jordan's King Abdullah II earlier this month in Washington.

US willingness to deal with a Palestinian unity government - provided it meets the international conditions - is seen as key to the success of the power-sharing talks. However, Hamas is unlikely to embrace the Egyptian proposal. Hamas leaders, pointing to the movement's sweeping victory in 2006 parliament elections, have said it's unreasonable to ask them to stay out of the government.

Another Fatah negotiator, Azzam al-Ahmed, said progress was made on other issues, including the electoral system, security reform and possible Hamas participation in the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Netanyahu's Middle East Policy is currently unlikely

This headline can only mean that the policy is currently unlikely or that there currently no policy:       
PM aide: Netanyahu's Mideast policy likely by time of U.S. visit
What the story really tells us is that there is no policy. That is incredible. After all, Benjamin Netanyahu had years in opposition to formulate opinions and strategies about what to do and how to do it, but now they tell us he got into office and started playing it by ear. Actually, Barack Obama seems to be doing the same thing. Their campaign platforms should have been, "If I'm elected, I'll figure out what to do."
Here's the story:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's review of Israel's policy on the Middle East is expected to be completed by the time he visits the United States next month, an aide to the premier said Tuesday.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Haaretz on Monday that he believes Netanyahu will present the U.S. administration a diplomatic plan in line with the principle of "two states for two nations" during his upcoming visit to Washington.
"[Netanyahu] accepted the Oslo accords at the time. And it is clear that when a political settlement is signed with all the neighbors, it will stipulate a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel, with the two living side by side," Barak said.
"I believe that even now, during Netanyahu's visit to Washington, Israel should come up with a formula about how it intends to move ahead, and that formula will not propose three states for eight nations," the defense minister added.
The prime minister's office would not comment on Barak's remarks, but Netanyahu's aide said the policy review was under way and should be completed around the time Netanyahu goes to Washington.
The same official said there was excellent coordination between Netanyahu and his defense minister.
Netanyahu has balked at explicitly agreeing to Palestinian statehood since taking office last month, but has been under increasing pressure from Washington to resume peacemaking.
The Obama administration has declared numerous times that it would remain committed to Israel's security, but has named as its policy dedication to the two-state solution.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Yet another Reformist challenger slams Ahmadinejad

The substance of Iranian policy will not change if a different president is elected. As the article notes:
Karroubi said the biggest challenge for his government, if elected, will be to return Iran to the position and image it had in 2004 when former reformist president Mohammad Khatami, a respected intellectual, stepped down.
But while Khatami was President, Iran was already building the concealed Arak reactor and making centrifuges at the secret Natanz "watch" factory. So all the world will get is a sneakier and slicker Iran.
Ami Isseroff  
Reformist challenger slams Ahmadinejad
Apr. 28, 2009
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST
A reformist challenger to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Tuesday that he would reverse the president's hard-line policies, including the denial of the Holocaust, if he wins the June presidential vote.
Mahdi Karroubi, a moderate cleric, is one of four candidates running in the June 12 elections. The leading challenger to Ahmadinejad is another reformist, Mir Hossein Mousavi.
Karroubi strongly criticized Ahmadinejad for pushing Iran into international isolation and said he has needlessly antagonized the West by claiming the Holocaust was a myth, as well as failed to improve living standards despite huge oil revenues unseen in Iran's history.
"Holocaust is a fact. It is obvious that it has occurred no matter whether the number of people who perished were 6 million or 6,000. (Denying the Holocaust) is of no benefit to Iran," he told a press conference.
Karroubi said the biggest challenge for his government, if elected, will be to return Iran to the position and image it had in 2004 when former reformist president Mohammad Khatami, a respected intellectual, stepped down.
Gholam Hossein Karbashchi, Karroubi's campagin manager, said Ahmadinejad has derailed Iran from the path of progress and wisdom and the candidate's priority will be to return Iran to the international fold.
"Iran has been derailed from the path of development ... expert views, planning and wisdom have been non-existent during the past four years. The image of the Iranian president has been reduced to the level of a man without wisdom. Changing this image will be the biggest achievement," he said.
Ahmadinejad's hard-line policies have provoked international condemnation of Iran and prompted the UN Security Council to issue three rounds of sanctions for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.
The hard-line president provoked global denunciations after he called UN Security Council resolutions "worthless" and "torn bits of paper."
Dozens of Western diplomats walked out of a UN conference in Geneva last week and a pair of rainbow-wigged protesters threw clown noses at Ahmadinejad when he called Israel the "most cruel and repressive racist regime."
"It was one of his uncalculated statements," Karroubi told reporters. "He calls UN resolutions 'worthless papers' ... and causes troubles for Iran but it is all Iranians who have to pay the price. The president's statements have harmed Iran's interests."
While some supporters gave Ahmadinejad a hero's welcome on his return, moderates complained that the president had undermined "the dignity of Iran and Iranians."
Karroubi, a former parliamentary speaker, said he will pursue a foreign policy of detente with the West and wouldn't mind meeting President Barack Obama if it would help Iran's national interests.
The reformist cleric privately told The Associated Press prior to the press conference that it is wrong to assume that Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is supporting Ahmadinejad for re-election.
"During private meetings, he (Khamenei) rejected assertions that he is backing Ahmadinejad for re-election," he said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel can and must make peace within three years

This is the reality behind the hype. Barak may be optimistic, but the will to peace is there.
"I am certain it is possible and certainly necessary to act with all our might to achieve peace even before I turn 70, which will be in three years," said Defense Minister Ehud Barak in his first extensive interview since joining the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"You have to understand that in their consciousness, the leaders are not so far apart in terms of what the final settlement will look like," Barak said, adding that he believes Netanyahu will present the U.S. administration a diplomatic plan in line with the principle of "two states for two nations" during his upcoming visit to Washington.
"Bibi [Netanyahu] accepted the Oslo accords at the time. And it is clear that when a political settlement is signed with all the neighbors, it will stipulate a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel, with the two living side by side. I believe that even now, during Netanyahu's visit to Washington, Israel should come up with a formula about how it intends to move ahead, and that formula will not propose three states for eight nations," he said.
"Bibi has a hard choice to make: Does he want to be [Yitzhak] Shamir or [Menachem] Begin?" he asked. "There is deep understanding between us on the need to address the political issue, and that it is impossible to leave things in a state of paralysis. If we sink into paralysis, we may find the world losing interest in Israel and in this conflict - or, in an even worse scenario, acceptance by the world that the solution is not two states for two nations, but one state for two nations, which for us is a concrete risk, a slippery slope."
On Iran's nuclear program, Barak struck a blustery yet pragmatic tone. "There is no one who will dare try to destroy Israel. We are not in a position of being able to tell the Americans whether to talk to the Iranians. I told American leaders: First learn from the professionals about what is going on in Iran, what they are doing behind the smoke screen, acquaint yourselves with the intelligence material, and from this you will understand they are working determinedly to deceive, confuse and blur things, and that under the headline of 'nuclear power for peaceful purposes,' they are trying to achieve military nuclear capability.
"I told them negotiations should be short and have a deadline, accompanied by 'soft' sanctions such as limitations on money transfers, while preparing the ground for harsh sanctions that involve authorizing action afterward. This has to be done in deep cooperation with the Russians and the Chinese, and we say we are not removing any option from the table. We have a tendency to hope for a heroic operation that will end everything, as with the bombing of the Iraqi reactor in 1981. Is that realistic?
"There is no comparison," he said. "In the Iraqi case there was one target that existed and was working, and a surgical strike eliminated it. We thought we were delaying the project for three to four years, whereas in practice it was delayed forever. Here we are up against something far more complex, sophisticated and extensive."
"The Iranians don't play backgammon, they play chess, and in fact they invented the game. They are proceeding with far greater sophistication and are far more methodical. The Iranian nation is a collection of people held together by an identity that includes the perception of being an empire from the dawn of history. Part of their nuclear pretensions have nothing to do with Israel, but with their place in the world and the Orient."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas and Fatah oppress Palestinian citizens

Wait and see - they will find a way to blame this on Israel and the "occupation.".
Sick Gazans Victims of Hamas-Fatah Power Struggle
Sick Gazans trapped, denied treatment in latest round of Hamas-Fatah power struggle
The Associated Press
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip
Hundreds of Palestinian patients have been trapped in the Gaza Strip, unable to travel abroad for crucial treatment for cancer and other diseases, because of political infighting between Gaza's militant Hamas rulers and their Palestinian rivals.
Eight Gazans who were waiting to travel abroad have died since the crisis began in March, when the dispute shut down a medical referral committee that helps sick residents find treatment outside of Gaza, according to the World Health Organization.
Others are hanging on, waiting. Ten-year-old Ribhi Jindiyeh, a lymphoma patient, lies in bed at home, skinny and jaundiced, too weak to move. He underwent chemotherapy last year in an Israeli hospital, and when he returned home in January, he seemed better. But in March, he began urinating blood.
Gaza doctors can't find the problem and give him infusions every two days to keep him alive.
"Nobody here knows why he is losing so much blood, but nobody can refer us to a hospital abroad, either," his mother, Nevine, 38, said.
Another son, 4-year-old Yehia, was diagnosed with lymphoma in March.
"I want everybody to help my son — Israel, Fatah, Hamas, whoever," Nevine said. "If they can't help a sick child, who can they help? They should all pack up their bags and go home."
On Monday, there was hope for a resolution. Hamas health minister Basim Naim announced the restoration of the referral committee, which Hamas' rival, Fatah, had controlled but Hamas shut down in March.
The committee would resume coordinating medical treatment abroad. But Hamas has reservations and has asked mediating independent health workers to find new committee members both sides can agree on, said senior health official Yousef Mudalal.
That raises the possibility of a new dispute.
The split between Hamas and the Fatah movement of U.S.-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which controls the West Bank, can have a devastating impact on Gazans' lives.
Hamas seized control of Gaza in June 2007 after routing forces loyal to Fatah and systematically started taking over government agencies in the tiny Mediterranean territory.
On March 22, Hamas officials took control of the Fatah-run medical committee, which referred about 1,000 patients a month with life-threatening illnesses to Israel and Egypt. Hamas officials said the committee was rife with corruption and needed reform.
In response, the West Bank government, which funds medical treatment for Palestinians abroad, froze most patient transfers.
Gaza patients cannot travel abroad without committee coordination because of a border blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt since the Hamas takeover. The two countries only recognize the West Bank administration as the legitimate Palestinian government.
Rights activists say the political differences are jeopardizing people's lives.
"They are playing with the lives of people and their pain. There's a complete absence of responsibility," said Khalil Shaheen of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
The Israeli branch of Physicians for Human Rights, working with the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, has managed to get 35 patients out of Gaza for treatment since the committee collapsed, said Ran Yarom of PHR. But the groups say they don't have the resources to do the committee's job.
The crisis compounds the challenges facing Gaza's medical system. Hospitals use aging equipment and suffer from low medicine supplies.
And in late January, the West Bank government halted payments for medical care in Israel, saying the treatment was too expensive. Fatah health officials said they would only pay for Gaza residents to obtain cheaper medical care in Egypt.
In Gaza City, 12-year-old Mohammed Zibdeh, a brain cancer patient, waits for a permit to travel, breathing with the assistance of a ventilator device in his throat. Last year, doctors in an Israeli hospital worked to shrink his brain tumor with chemotherapy. Now Zibdeh has constant headaches, and his father, Riyad, 48, fears the tumor is growing back.
"I can't help him, and he might be dying before my own eyes," he said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Copyright © 2009 ABC News Internet Ventures

Continued (Permanent Link)

Arab MK Barakeh of Israel Communist Party to be indicted

"Offending a public employee" is an absurd offence that should be stricken from the books. If this is all Barakeh did, it is not worth indicting him for it. If he did things that are treasonous, that's a different matter.
Mazuz to indict Hadash chair Barakei
Apr. 28, 2009 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz on Tuesday announced his intention to file an indictment against Hadash Chairman MK Muhammad Barakei for disrupting police during a protest against Defense Minister Ehud Barak in 2007.
Barakei had joined family members of Arab Israeli killed during the October 2000 riots in protesting against Barak while the Labor chairman was addressing supporters in Nazareth.
Barak was prime minister when the second intifada and the rioting inside Israel broke out.
Barakei slammed the decision to indict him, saying, "the attorney general considers calls to murder Arab MKs part of free speech while closing the investigations regarding October 2000. This is an attempt to intimidate the Arab population in order to deny it its basic right to struggle."
In February, Mazuz informed Barakei that he is facing indictment for offenses allegedly committed while he participated in three separate demonstrations in recent years.
The first set of allegations concerns a 2005 protest in the West Bank town of Bil'in, where protesters against the security barrier frequently clash with police and soldiers.
At that protest, police say, Barakei attacked a member of the Israel Prisons Service's Massada quick response and intervention force while he was taking a detainee toward a police car. In that case, the prosecution is considering charging Barakei with attacking a law-enforcement officer.
The second incident occurred during a protest near the Carmel Market in south Tel Aviv in August 2006. Barakei allegedly yelled threats at a police officer and made obscene gestures, leading prosecutors to consider indicting the MK for offending a public employee.
And in the third case, Barakei allegedly attacked a passerby who insulted far-Left activist Uri Avneri while Barakei and Avneri were participating in a demonstration at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square in July 2006. Prosecutors are considering charging him with assault.
Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Lieberman on everything

The world according to Liberman

Apr. 28, 2009

He's only been in the job for a month, but already the foreign minister is fed up with the 'slogans' he keeps hearing from his international counterparts: occupation, settlements, land-for-peace, two-state solutions... His favored key words? Security (for Israel). A stronger economy (for the Palestinians). And stability (for all). Bringing peace to our region is more complex than sloganeering would allow, he tells The Jerusalem Post in this interview, his first with an Israeli newspaper. And it's time we all faced up to the inconvenient reality.

Last Thursday, just a few hours after The Jerusalem Post completed this interview with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, his American counterpart, Hillary Clinton, gave testimony on Capitol Hill that forcefully underlines the different emphases placed by the two allied governments on Middle East problem-solving.

If Israel wants the backing of moderate Arab nations in countering the profound threat posed by Iran, said the American secretary of state, then it needs to get deeply engaged in peace efforts with the Palestinians.

"For Israel to get the kind of strong support it is looking for vis-a-vis Iran, it can't stay on the sidelines with respect to the Palestinians and the peace efforts. They go hand in hand," she told the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. Moderate Arab countries, she elaborated, "believe that Israel's willingness to re-enter into discussions with the Palestinian Authority strengthens them in being able to deal with Iran."

As Liberman made crystal-clear in our interview, Israel has no desire to stall peace-making efforts with the Palestinians. Quite the contrary. The new government, he said, "intends to take the initiative."

But rather than progress with the Palestinians holding the key to combating Iran, Liberman emphatically sees combating Iran as the key to progress with the Palestinians.

As he put it, "It's impossible to resolve any problem in our region without resolving the Iranian problem. This relates to Lebanon, to their influence in Syria, their deep involvement within Egypt, in the Gaza Strip, in Iraq. If the international community wants to resolve its Middle East problems, it's impossible because the biggest obstacle to this solution is the Iranians."

The new foreign minister, who insisted on conducting the conversation in his reasonable and improving English, was reluctant to go into the specifics of the new foreign policy strategy the coalition will be following. This is in part because it is still a work in progress, and in part because it is to be formally unveiled only on May 18, when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House.

And despite several attempts to draw him out, he wouldn't rule in, or rule out, Palestinian statehood.

He did, however, sketch out some parameters. Among them: the contention that progress depends on improved security for Israel, a bolstered economy for the Palestinians, and stability for both; the refusal to so much as discuss a "right of return" to Israel for Palestinian refugees; the clarification that Palestinian recognition of the "Jewish state" is critical to "real peace" but is not a precondition for substantive talks, and the goal of "suffocating" Hamas.

He also all-but ridiculed the idea of further indirect negotiations with Syria for the time being, added some nuances to his position on the hugely controversial issue of a loyalty oath for Israeli citizenship, insisted he would not be forced out of his job by the corruption investigations surrounding him, but stressed that his own personal situation would not affect Israel Beiteinu's presence in the coalition anyway.

Characteristically soft-spoken, puffing somewhat half-heartedly at a cigar along the way, Liberman was carefully setting out what amounts to a call for his international colleagues to remake their thinking on Israel and the region - to "drop the slogans," face up to a reality that is far more complex than it is convenient to acknowledge, and give this new Israeli government some credit and some time as it tries to formulate proposals that will succeed where past peace-making efforts have failed.

He said his impression, to date, was that his foreign counterparts were taking the new government seriously, and respected him for his straight-talking. Clinton's remarks on Capitol Hill, however, make plain that it will be an uphill battle for Liberman and the Netanyahu government, once they overhaul Israel's approach to peace-making, to persuade the international community to do anything similar.

Can we start with the issue of two states for two peoples. Wasn't the international basis for the establishment of Israel that there be a Jewish entity alongside an Arab entity? Is your government now departing from this paradigm or is the principle of two states still the applicable one?

First of all, we must understand why the Palestinian issue is deadlocked, because since 1993 we really made every effort. We had very dovish governments. We can start with Ehud Barak at Camp David, who made a very generous offer to [Yasser] Arafat and he rejected it. As for the Ariel Sharon government, we undertook an insane process called disengagement. We transferred thousands of Jews from the Gaza Strip. We evacuated tens of flowering settlements and we received in return Hamas and Kassam rockets. The last government of Ehud Olmert is the same. From what I saw in the papers, he really made a very very generous offer to Abu Mazen. And the same thing happened: Abu Mazen rejected it.

Were there elements that Olmert offered that were surprising to you?

Of course. I was shocked, as was everybody.

But more than this offer, more important at the end of the day: what was the final result? This was a very dovish government - without Liberman, without Netanyahu. It was Olmert, Barak and Tzipi Livni. And the result? The Second Lebanon War, the operation in Gaza, severed diplomatic relations with Mauritania and Qatar, our soldier Gilad Schalit still in captivity.

And we cannot move forward without understanding why.

I know that all of us know some very popular slogans - land for peace, two-state solutions. It would be very easy to win over public opinion or the mass media by talking in slogans. But this is not election time. We're not during the campaign. We want to bring real results.

Israel has proved its good intentions, our desire for peace. Since 1978, we gave up territories three times larger than Israel. We invested billions of shekels in the Palestinian Authority. We paid a very heavy price. Thousands of our citizens were killed in terrorist acts. What more can we do?

Without understanding the real reasons for this long-standing conflict, we cannot move forward. That's my view.

Over the last two weeks I've had many conversations with my colleagues around the world. Just today, I saw the political adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Chinese foreign minister and the Czech prime minister. And everybody, you know, speaks with you like you're in a campaign: Occupation, settlements, settlers...

You mean they speak in slogans?

Yes, slogans. Settlements, outposts. And I ask only one thing: What was the situation before 1967, before we established a single settlement. What was before '48 and '67? Was it peace, was it a heaven here?

It was the same: friction, terrorism, bloodshed. The PLO and Fatah were established before '67 and the Arab countries controlled Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip for 19 years, from '48 to '67. Nobody spoke during this time about the Palestinian state. And even before the establishment of the state of Israel, it was the same: friction, tension, terror, riots, pogroms. People try to simplify the situation with these formulas - land for peace, two-state solution. It's a lot more complicated.

You don't need to persuade this newspaper not to speak to you in slogans, but nonetheless, is it not the case that for our sake, to keep a Jewish, democratic Israel, we have to find some way to separate from the Palestinians? And doesn't that mean, in principle at least, statehood? I understand the prime minister's concerns about what statehood brings with it - giving one the right to arm and to pose a threat. But what then is the ultimate goal here vis-a-vis the Palestinians?

Yes, you live here and you understand the situation. I'm not sure that in Europe, that the leadership of the European Union, understand. For them, it's occupation, settlements and settlers.

I view The Jerusalem Post not only as an Israeli newspaper, but as a means to speak to people around the world - supporters and enemies.

We must clarify our position. The real reason [for the deadlock with the Palestinians] is not occupation, not settlements and not settlers. This conflict is really a very deep conflict. It started like other national conflicts. Today it's a more religious conflict. Today you have the influence of some non-rational players, like Al-Qaida. What is Hamas and Islamic Jihad? It's Iran by proxy.

To resolve this conflict, it is not enough to repeat slogans. I don't see any short way for any comprehensive solutions.

From my point of view, we're interested in three things. First of all, as Israeli citizens, the most important thing is security. I don't want to see, every day, every morning, Palestinian missiles striking Sderot.

Second, what is most important for the Palestinians? I think it's also very clear - the economy. Now I say as a settler, we at Nokdim are the biggest employer in our area. I have met many times with Palestinians from the villages around us, who really strongly do not believe in any political process, in peace processes - not in summits, not in conferences, not in declarations...

They have unemployment of 30-40 percent, especially in the Gaza Strip, with families living on $200 a month. Like all normal peoples, they want, first of all, jobs, to feed their families, to provide education for their children, health services, personal security. So the key value for the Palestinians is the economy.

It's not independence? And they didn't vote for Hamas because they want to get rid of Israel? It's the economy?

Why they voted Hamas is an interesting question. It was not independence, and not because they believe in Hamas's radical ideology, but because Hamas established a social services framework - clinics, funds, schools. And the Palestinian Authority, Fatah, on the other hand, during the Arafat regime and after it, was seen as very corrupt in its institutions. That's why Hamas won the elections. The same applies today. The Palestinians want normal lives, a standard of living, jobs.

And the third element, of course, is stability. Economy, security, stability. It's impossible to artificially impose any political solution. It will fail, for sure. You cannot start any peace process from nothing. You must create the right situation, the right focus, the right conditions.

You say you don't foresee a comprehensive solution in the near future, but we're already hearing from the new American president that this has been going on for long enough.

Annapolis was the wrong approach. With the Road Map, you can see some logical path: First of all, [for the PA to] dismantle terrorist organizations, collect illegal weapons, establish a justice system and establish normal state institutions. You have three stages in the Road Map, with 48-49 paragraphs. Only the last stage, the last paragraphs, deal with negotiations for the permanent solution. So, [under Annapolis,] to jump straight to the last paragraph and to concede on all of the Palestinian commitments to fight terror - it's a very strange approach.

Now in our policy review, it's a new government and we need time. I'm not ready for someone to stand with a stopwatch and say, 'What's happening, what's happening?' I talked with [President Obama's special envoy George] Mitchell, and he well understood our problems.

The people of Israel made their decision [in the elections] and this is really the right time to examine new ideas, new approaches, new visions. We're trying to formulate this new approach now. And the first time that we're going to speak about it so that everyone can see the new policy will be on the 18th of May, during the first meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama.

We intend to take the initiative. Our interest is to keep the initiative in our hands and we will try to convince the Palestinians and the Europeans and the Quartet and the United States that this is the right way.

But I want to stress that the biggest problem, the biggest obstacle to any comprehensive solution, is not Israel. It is not the Palestinians. It's the Iranians.

Today we see how big the Iranian threat is in our area - not only regarding the Palestinian issue. In Lebanon too. And what we've seen in the last few weeks in Egypt is maybe the best illustration of the Iranian threat to this entire region.

It's a three-fold problem: Iran with a nuclear weapon; Iran with long-range missiles; and Iran by proxy - from the South, from the Gaza Strip, with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and from the North, with Hizbullah. They can torpedo any solution, any agreement.

Does that mean Iran has to be stopped in order to liberate any substantive process?

Of course. What is the biggest problem for the Palestinians. It's not Israel. It's their internal Palestinian problem. We saw so many atrocities. There is such danger within - between Hamas and Fatah. Their biggest problem is first of all Hamas. Hamas in Judea and Samaria, Hamas in Gaza - supported by the Iranians.

The Iranians are the biggest sponsor of worldwide terrorist activity, whether it's Hizbullah or Hamas or Islamic Jihad or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, or anywhere around the world.

Please clarify: We've seen headlines claiming Israel is saying, 'First, you have to stop Iran, and then we'll make progress with the Palestinians'...

It's impossible to resolve any problem in our region without resolving the Iranian problem. This relates to Lebanon, to their influence in Syria, their deep involvement within Egypt, in the Gaza Strip, in Iraq. If the international community wants to resolve its Middle East problems, it's impossible because the biggest obstacle to this solution is the Iranians.

Does that mean Israel is saying to the Americans, 'We're not going to move on the Palestinian issue until you stop Iran?'

Even if you want to put aside the Palestinian-related issues, and to look for a solution in Lebanon, say, the problems in Lebanon have nothing to do with Israelis and Palestinians. The same goes for Egypt and the problems of recent weeks. It's the same: Hizbullah and the Iranians.

I understand. But is our government going to say to the international community and the Americans in particular, 'We're not even going to start trying to make progress with the Palestinians until you stop Iran?

No, no, no, no, no.

That's the impression that's sometimes being created.

No, we must start with the Palestinian issues because it's our interest to resolve this problem. But there should be no illusions. To achieve an agreement, to achieve an end of conflict, with no more bloodshed, no more terror, no more claims - that's impossible until Iran [is addressed], one of the biggest players in our arena...

Where does Hamas and Gaza fit into the plan Israel will present to the Obama administration?

It must be clear that we cannot deal with Hamas in any way. Not directly. Not indirectly. We've tried to clarify our position to Europe. The [three] Quartet conditions must be kept on the table [- recognition of Israel; acceptance of previous agreements; renunciation of violence]. We've clarified that they [Europe] should not move from this, not to change these conditions. Hamas cannot be a partner to any discussions.

Is the goal to bring down Hamas?

Hamas cannot be a partner to any discussions, any talks or any process. I hope that we can suffocate Hamas. It's in our interests, in the interests of the Egyptians, and the Palestinian Authority. As we saw, Hamas is only a proxy of the Iranians here, and they repeat openly every day their intention to destroy us; they're not ready to recognize our right to exist. From my point of view there is only one way: to suffocate Hamas.

How do you achieve that?

We have enough possibilities. If the Egyptians, Palestinians and us build the right strategy, there are many effective ways to do this. Not only militarily. But if Hamas strikes Sderot and other towns in the south, then also militarily.

How do you square suffocating Hamas with a world that is lining up to pour huge amounts of aid and money to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip following the last war?

The role of the Palestinian government is interesting. They have Prime Minister Salaam Fayad, who can really be a partner for reconstruction in Gaza. He can lead this process.

Hamas has said it rejects Fayad.

We reject Hamas. That's my point of view. I think that the international community accepts Salaam Fayad as a legitimate representative of the Palestinian Authority."

Is the Israeli plan to bring the PA back into power in the Gaza Strip?

I don't think that we must interfere in the internal Palestinian problems. It's in their interests to bring back the Palestinian Authority into Gaza. It's not only our interest, but also in the Egyptians' interests to keep Gaza quiet - without weapons, money and terrorist ideology being smuggled into the Gaza Strip. The picture in Gaza is not optimistic.

Even though the generous Olmert government couldn't get a deal with the PA, Fayad and Mahmoud Abbas remain the address?

There are two clear models, one in Judea and Samaria and one in the Gaza Strip. The example of coexistence with Salaam Fayad in Judea and Samaria is really different from our experience with Gaza. It is the Judea and Samaria model that I adopt. We must build up something similar in the Gaza Strip, to strengthen normal, rational partners on the other side that recognize our right to exist. Even the Palestinian people see what the standard of living is in Judea and Samaria, and they can compare this situation to the Gaza Strip.

So you think the Abbas and the PA recognize our right to exist here?

In general, they recognize our right to exist. In my first meeting with Mitchell, I demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish country. It's a very important point for us.

Is this recognition a precondition for negotiations?

No. You know, we don't want to torpedo the process. I don't see this as a precondition. But somebody who really wants a solution, somebody who really desires a real peace and a real agreement, must realize that this would be impossible to achieve without recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

So what is your vision of a final deal?

We are in the middle of a deep process of policy review. We're making a very serious effort, and we're trying to prepare ourselves as best we can to show something real on May 18.

And any plan that addresses the 'right of return' of Palestinians is no basis for negotiations?

It is totally unacceptable. It cannot be used as a basis. Not even one refugee.

If President Obama says to Israel, 'I'm trying to tackle Iran, I'm trying to bring in the moderates in the region to help us where your interests are concerned. The Saudis have a peace plan, and I know you don't love it, and I know you're not going to agree to any right of return, but as a basis to get them on board, is this not something that we can work from,' then Israel will be saying...?

It's unacceptable. It cannot be on the table. I'm not ready to even discuss the 'right of return' of even one refugee. There cannot be at the same time a Jewish country and a 'right of return.'

So the final envisaged peaceful outcome?

Before peace we must create security, stability and prosperity. You cannot bring an artificial peace. Peace is a result of security, stability and prosperity. You cannot bring peace to a shaky area with daily friction and bloodshed and some 50 percent [Palestinian] unemployment. It's impossible. Peace must be created in the right way once these conditions are met and a new atmosphere is created.

The prime minister has said very clearly he doesn't want to rule over any Palestinians.

I agree absolutely.

Israel has asked the Americans to put a time limit on their dialogue with Iran. What is the timetable we've asked them to stick to?

We are not America. It's their decision. We're closely monitoring this engagement.

How can Iran be stopped?

First of all, there must be very tough sanctions from the international community. It's not too late for economic sanctions. If the Security Council adopts tough resolutions and tough sanctions, then it's possible to stop [Iran from developing nuclear weapons]. Today I had a meeting with the Chinese foreign minister. The Chinese understand that it would be very bad for the whole area - and they are also very close geographically to Iran - if Iran is a nuclear power. Nobody needs to be happy about this possibility.

You recently met with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. Were you invited to Egypt, and do you plan on visiting there?

We had very interesting talks. It was a very interesting meeting. It was not the first time that I met Mr. Omar Suleiman, and we will continue our dialogue.

But you've not had a formal invitation to Egypt?

I saw before our meeting many speculations, but I think that we will keep this atmosphere going.

There have been reports that Defense Minister Ehud Barak plans to propose a major increase in the number of PA police personnel in the West Bank. What is your reaction to this?

I don't want to discuss elements of the new policy. We will make our decisions in the next two weeks. The policy must be acceptable for me, and for all parts of this coalition. This is a very good chance for Israel to make really serious decisions. Our biggest problem is the instability of our political system. We have existed for 61 years, and this is the 32nd government. That's an average of just less than two years for every government. Only one government in the past has completed its term - the 15th government, of Golda Meir. This current government, I think, is the second government in our history that can complete all four years and nine months. It's a very interesting coalition - with a Left wing, with a Right wing, with the religious, the Orthodox. It's really a stable government.

If the Labor party stays together, and if you yourself are not indicted...

The legal issues [surrounding me] are a another question. Israel Beiteinu doesn't have any reason to be out of this coalition. It's not a personal decision, about personal benefits or my private policy. We as a party have today 15 seats in the Knesset and we have an interest to promote this government and support its policies. Everybody in this coalition has good reason to be a part of the coalition for four years and nine months.

We see Iran's effort to demonize Israel working very well. We see support for Israel receding in Europe. We are concerned with the way Israel is perceived in Europe and many places internationally. And then along comes Avigdor Liberman, in the new government as the foreign minister, and fairly or unfairly, you are depicted by critics of Israel as one of the emblems that justify their criticisms. You are depicted as an extremist, a hardliner...

So it's easy for me to surprise them. (Laughs.) I think that they respect me, really respect me, and that they understand that I say what I mean, and I mean every word that I say. My impression from my last discussions with my colleagues from Europe, as well as from Australia and Canada, and with Madame [Hillary] Clinton - was really a very good impression. They understand that we are a really strong coalition. If this government fails to achieve some kind of solution, I don't see any other government in the future that can be more successful. I think that in Europe they are ready to accept us and I think that they understand that we have a better chance.

But don't they ask you, 'Mr. Liberman, are you prepared to give the Palestinians a state at the end of this process or not?'

They understand that we are a new government and that we need time. It's impossible in two weeks to bring a new policy. It takes time. Everybody knows today that there is a meeting in Washington on May 18 between [Barack Obama] and Netanyahu. Everybody is ready to wait until the 18th of May.

The Europeans need to change their tune - to stop saying the words 'settlements, occupation,' and start using the words 'security, stability, prosperity'...

I said today in a meeting with the prime minister of the Czech Republic that we have three examples in Europe for the resolution of conflicts. The first example is of Czechoslovakia itself after the Second World War with Germany in the Sudetenland area in Czechoslovakia. This is a very bad example. The second example is in Northern Ireland. Today it's a good solution, but it took 800 years. We don't have 800 years.

The other example is Cyprus. What was the situation in Cyprus before 1974? The same situation as in Israel. The Greeks and Turks were living together. There was friction, bloodshed and terror and war. After '74, they concentrated all the Greek population in the southern part of the island and the Turkish part of the population in the northern part of the island. There is no peace agreement even today. But there is stability, prosperity and security.

The Greek part of Cyprus is a full member of the EU and nobody is thinking any more about the war and the terror. This is the result, even without a formal peace agreement. And Europe accepted this kind of solution. I think in this way it is clear what kind of solution we prefer.

Can you apply that model to the Syrian track?

It's a different concept and situation completely because what we see from the Syrian side today is that they continue to smuggle weapons to the south of Lebanon in spite of UN Resolution 1701. They continue to support Hizbullah and terrorist activity. They continue to host Hamas and Islamic Jihad headquarters in Damascus. We see that they are tightening their relations with Iran and they are really a very active part of the axis of evil. They are part of this axis, which stretches from North Korea to Iran, to Hugo Chavez.

America seems to be moving towards engagement with Syria and Iran.

We see the facts. There must be some signs of good will. We don't see any good will from the Syrian side. Only the threats like, 'If you're not ready to talk, we'll retake the Golan by military action.' We see very aggressive policies and very aggressive declarations. I don't see any real conditions for talks with Syria.

So you are not ready to continue indirectly mediated talks with the Syrians?

I don't see any reason today for talks with the Syrians. Also, it's very strange behavior. They say, 'First of all, you must give a commitment that you are ready to go back to the '67 borders and after that we will start to talk.' What would we have to talk about? What kinds of talks are those?

What about modalities of peace?

(Laughs.) In this case, I say that I agree that the Iranians need a nuclear capability for their peaceful policy and they need long-range missiles for their peaceful policy around the world.

Will you personally see out the four years and nine months in this government?

Yes. I am sure that I will be the foreign minister for four years and nine months.

Do you have faith in the judicial system?

I don't think that's a fair question to ask during the investigations, I have a long experience and I think it's part of my Israel experience.

Your policy about a loyalty oath…it seems unprecedented to ask people who are already citizens to take a loyalty oath to remain citizens.

The same things happen in America, where you have a pledge already from the first grade. Even pupils in first grade in schools, from the first day, they have a procedure in which they have to pledge.

What specifically would you want to require in your oath of allegiance?

The same things as in the United States. You don't have to sign a form, but that we as a state have the right to demand, from our citizens and our students, to fulfill their obligations to their country to do some kind of military service or civil service. The dividing line is not between Jews, Christians or Muslims, but to be a loyal citizen or not to be a loyal citizen, or to fulfill your duty or not to fulfill your duty to the country. We must encourage this process and example of civil service for the Orthodox and the minorities. We have to adopt what they have in the United States - the pledge in the schools in the first grade. They have a special bill for people in military service. They have some better conditions for studies and for universities, for housing and to receive employment in the service of the state.

What happens in a school in the Arab sector when the principal does what he is asked to do and calls an assembly every morning and some students don't say [the pledge]. What do you say to that?

Everybody can see our formal platform on Israel Beiteinu's website. People like to create speculation and rumors and make some dramatic statements and commentary. Everyone understands the situation when people in Israel, during war time, support our enemies, identify with terror. It's unacceptable.

How did it feel to hear [Iranian President] Ahmadinejad's comments on Holocaust Remembrance Day?

For me it's really terrible. I have a family that has first-hand knowledge of the Holocaust. My father was a soldier in the Red Army from the first day until 1946. My uncle was killed in Stalingrad.

For us, it's really crazy that after 60 years we have a new Hitler, a new crazy guy with the same ideology, the same purposes and the same aims. When Hitler published Mein Kampf, everybody said, 'He's not serious, he's just a crazy guy.' And when he took power, people said, He will change now that he's in power.' And the same was said with regard to [Ayatollah] Khomeini. And now we see it with Ahmadinejad.

I think we must stop him. I think it is possible. This is the world's problem. They don't want to see the reality.

We want to escape reality. We have this crazy guy. He's decisive, he's charismatic, with a lot of determination and with a lot of political will, who is steadily moving towards reaching the end of his program to be a nuclear power with unconventional weapons. Not only nuclear weapons, but biological.

Do you think he will use nuclear weapons if he has them?

I don't think it's just a question of will he use them, but also of what message it sends to the region, to the Gulf countries. The message is 'Who is the main power? Who is leading the Muslim world?'

It's a very bad message. Today he is stronger and more dangerous than he was yesterday, and tomorrow he will be stronger and more dangerous than he is today.

Is it him or is it the regime?

Him and the regime. Both are the same.

Can Israel survive in the shadow of a nuclear Iran?

I don't think it's a question of Israel. It's a question for the international community. The world today understands that it's not only about Israel and Iran. I don't think that in Japan they can sleep very well with the guy in North Korea who has missiles and nuclear weapons. The biggest problem that we will find ourselves in is a crazy nuclear arms race in this region. I don't even want to think about the consequences of that. The five biggest powers, the permanent members of the Security Council - it is first and foremost their responsibility.

Finally, what is your message to Israelis on Independence Day?

We're really a strong country. We have a big economy in spite of the problems of terror. We have a very strong society. We have very successful industry that garners international respect, even from China and Russia. The pope's coming to visit. We occupy a very serious place in the international community. Tourism is growing. And more people understand us better than ever before. We can hold out hope of a change for the better, of positive changes, in the next four or five years.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Is the US preparing to sell out to Hamas?

The US government is reportedly trying to loosen restrictions on aid money so it can aid a Palestinian government that includes the Hamas terrorist group. Israeli consternation was met by ominous doubletalk:
Officials in Jerusalem were surprised by a report in the L.A. Times Monday that the Obama administration has asked Congress to amend U.S. law to enable the Palestinian Authority to receive federal aid even if Hamas joins a unity coalition.
"Every step that strengthens Hamas only distances peace. In the event that the report is true, it is painful and worrying," a political source in Jerusalem said Monday.
Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' forces in a bloody 2007 coup, has been deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S. and therefore cannot not legally receive U.S. government aid.
Israeli officials are still attempting to ascertain the intentions of U.S. President Barack Obama's administration. Initial messages relayed to Jerusalem from Washington said there would be no change in policy, only a change in the language used with reference to a Palestinian unity government.
Hamas does not recognize the right of Israel to exist. Actually that's an understatement. Hamas insists that their mission is to murder all the Jews, who are guilty, among other crimes, of starting the French Revolution and the Soviet Revolution. Hamas  seized power from Fatah in Gaza in a bloody coup, taking from Fatah all the US military equipment that had been supplied to them. Aid money to Hamas would be used to entrench their rule in Gaza and import weapons. The US had promised that no aid voted for reconstruction of Gaza would go to the Palestinians unless and untill Hamas changed its ways. Why was the promise made if there was no intention to keep it? Why is it necessary to change the language if there is no change in policy?   What does it mean: "A change in language, but not a change in policy?" Mr. President, do they get the money or don't they get the money? Never mind the language!
The plot thickens - because Mahmoud Abbas said that the organizations that compose a unity government do not have to accept the principles of that government - such as recognition of Israel.
Alluding to the dispute over whether the Palestinian government should recognize Israel and abide by past Palestinian agreements, Abbas noted that "forces don't need to accept what the government accepts, and we say that the government has to accept the international legitimacy."
A mean battle may be shaping up, or it may be yet another tempest in a teapot.
Ami Isseroff  

Continued (Permanent Link)

Moderate Palestinian Abbas rejects two state solution


RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed Monday calls by the new right-leaning Israeli government to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, an issue emerging as a main obstacle to peacemaking.

"I do not accept it," the Western-backed Abbas said.

And therefore in effect, he has rejected the two state solution. How so?  
"Two state solution" is shorthand for "two states for two peoples." According to UN General Assembly Resolution 181   the international body approved the creation of two states in Palestine: a state for the Jewish people or Jewish state and a a state for the Arabs of Palestine, an Arab state. The Basic Law of the Palestinian Authority states that Palestine is an Arabic and Islamic State:

Article (2)

Palestine is part of the Arab nation. The state of Palestine abides by the charter of the League of Arab States. The Palestinian people are part of the Arab and Islamic nations. Arab unity is a goal, the Palestinian people hopes to achieve.

Article (7)

The principles of Islamic Shari'a are a major source for legislation. Civil and religious matters of the followers of monotheistic religions shall be organized in accordance with their religious teachings and denominations within the framework of law, while preserving the unity and independence of the Palestinian people.

Israel's recognition of Palestine is therefore recognition of an Arab Islamic state of Palestine. The Palestinians would not accept such a state as a solution if a majority of Jews were to suddenly move there, or if they were required to allow immigration for Jews. In fact, they insist on kicking out all the Jews.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel MFA Responds to Palestinian Rejection of Two State Solution


(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesman)

Following is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' response to remarks made today by Palestinian Chairman Mahmud Abbas relating to recognition of Israel as a Jewish state:

The recognition of Israel as the sovereign state of the Jewish people is an essential and necessary step in the historic process of reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians.

The more the Palestinians assimilate this fundamental and substantive fact, the sooner the peace between the two nations will progress toward fruition.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinian Editor: Corruption, Nepotism and Favoritism are good for Palestine

I am not inventing this, honstly. Nasser Lahham, editor-in-chief of the Palestinian Maannews news service takes issue with a report that lashed out at corruption, nepotism and favoritism,. the fifth annual Aman: Palestinian Coalition for Accountability and Integrity report. He notes:
What the report calls nepotism and favoritism are, in Palestinian society, forms of respect for the family and the community; ignoring their needs might lead to enmity between someone appointed to a hiring position and another in his or her community.

Inside our factions and out, however, what the report calls "favoritism and nepotism" I would prefer to call "social diplomacy." I draw your attention to the case of the job applicant: He is in hard circumstances and is in bad need of work. His fellow party member, cousin or clansman shows respect for his position and gives him a three month probationary period during which he must prove he can do the job.

Including a young man in a new company is like having him marry into your family; it is a way to look out for and ensure the protection of younger generations and those in need. Being able to offer work, a respectable position, is community diplomacy and an essential tool.
Lahham is not describing a government, but rather a somehat different sort of organization. Indeed, a Palestinian politician is a "man of respect," or "uomo di rispetto" as we used to say in the old country (Brooklyn).  And taking on a new worker makes him a member of la famiglia. Capisce, paisan?  And he explains that the same mechanism of "Social Diplomacy" operates among the Hamas
What I think that Aman must recognize is that there should be a differentiation between social diplomacy and negative nepotism. One helps people and stitches together a society and the other is a harmful violation of law and religion.

I asked one of my friends in Hamas who have the slogan of "reform and change," who won power after a long rule by a corrupted Fatah, why they are pursuing power and authority in Palestine. He answered, "We do not struggle for power but it is the job these days; is the only benefit we can use to satisfy our supporters so we are not ready to give it up."
Corrupt politicians all over the world will be grateful to Lahham for whitewashing that ugly word "patronage" into the very much more respectable, "Social Diplomacy."  
And we also know who is at fault for Palestinian corruption (you guessed it!):

One can also argue, then, that unemployment, poverty, and siege are preventing the workers from working, and the situation is the real culprit behind the mass applications for one job and nepotism is the only way to cut through the clutter.

: What is behind all this, is the need to get rid of Salam Fayyed, who was getting in the way of "the families" with his reformist delusions.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel's population on eve of 61st Independence Day: 7,411,000

Actually that's 7,411,001. 7,411,002   7,411,003. Oh well, you got the idea. In November of 2002, Arabs constituted 19% of Israel's population. They are up to 20.2%
Apr. 27, 2009 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Israel's population on the eve of its 61st Independence Day numbers 7,411,000, according to data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics Monday afternoon.
Last year, the population was 7,282,000, and when Israel was established, it was just 806,000.
About 75.5 percent, or 5,593,000, of Israel's residents are Jews, 1,498,000 are Arabs (20.2%), while "Others" - immigrants and their offspring
who are not registered as Jews by the Interior Ministry - number 320,000 (4.3%).
Since Independence Day last year, there have been approximately 154,000 babies born, and more than 12,000 immigrants have arrived. In total, Israel's population grew during this period by approximately 125,000 - a growth of 1.8%.
70% of the total Jewish population are native Israelis, or 'Sabras,' and at least half of them are second generation Israelis - compared with a native Israeli population of 35% in 1948.
In 1948, there was only one city in Israel with more than 100,000 residents - Tel Aviv-Jaffa (248,000). Today, 14 cities number more than 100,000 residents, of which five number more than 200,000 residents: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Haifa, Rishon Lezion and Ashdod.
This article can also be read at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Ahmedinejad campaign gives out free Israeli Oranges

Iran will have to cancel their nuclear weapons program when they find out the uranium and the detonators came from Israel. This is not so far fetched. Until 1989, the Israeli Soltam factory was making shells for the Iranian military. The contract was stopped after Hezbollah shells were found with Israeli markings. Israeli Nachum Manbar was caught selling poison gas to Iran. Israelis are investigating who broke the Israeli embargo against Iran, and Iranians are investigating who violated the Israel boycott. Israel imports pistachio nuts from Iran. These have the advantage of being much smaller than oranges, so they are difficult to label...

The Blunder with Israeli Orange Handouts

Following the hand out of cash in envelopes to journalists and free potato handouts to potential voters by Ahmadinejad's election camp, the efforts to buy votes with more hand outs was intensified to help re-elect Ahmadinejad.

In another freebies for votes stunt, Ahmadinejad's camp announced free orange handouts to people when he was due to hold an election rally in the poor district of Islamshahr. Of course the stunt worked and as predicted, large throngs who would not miss the opportunity of getting fresh juicy oranges for free, turned up. There was however one problem. The oranges were Israeli oranges with obvious 'Jaffa' labels still on them!

So shortly after President Ahmadinejad using the platform handed to him on a plate by the UN summit to recruit extremist and militant minds in the Middle East, the self styled champion of the oppressed Palestinian people was handing out Israeli oranges for the rent a crowd mob.

Who could have written a funnier script than that?

Continued (Permanent Link)

Pakistan, US, clueless about Bin-Laden whereabouts

Neither the US nor the Pakistani intelligence agencies could find their noses, but that doesn't mean they haven't got any noses.
Bin Laden could be dead, whereabouts unknown: Zardari
Mon Apr 27, 2009 5:52am EDT
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari said on Monday that the whereabouts of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden remained a mystery and there was a suspicion that he could be dead.
Speaking to international media, Zardari said U.S. officials had told him that they had no trace of the al Qaeda chief, although they habitually say he is most likely in Pakistan.
Pakistan's own intelligence agencies were no wiser, either, Zardari said.
"There is no news," the president said. "They obviously feel that he does not exist anymore but that's not confirmed, we can't confirm that."
Al Jazeera aired excerpts of an audio recording in March in which the speaker's voice sounded like earlier messages from bin Laden, who has eluded all efforts to catch him since al Qaeda carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
Bin Laden, if he is still alive, turned 52 on March 10, but he is known to suffer from ill-health.
There have been reports that he had died of natural causes in the past, but they have never been corroborated, and security analysts believe intelligence agencies monitoring jihadi websites on the Internet would have picked up some chatter.
(Reporting by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Dean Yates)

Continued (Permanent Link)

What's wrong with Arab education?

This insightful article tells a bit about why Arab countries fail to progress despite fabulous oil revenues. It has nothing to do with Israel or Zionism, the usually named culprits. It has to do with education. The question is whether it is just an accident that Arab education is so poor, or whether we have to look deeper for the hidden causes. Why is education so poor despite the large investment? Is poor education the cause of child marriages, as the authors claim? How much education do you need in order to recognize that an 8 year old girl is not ready for marriage?
Arab education displays its discontents
By Raja Kamal and Tom G. Palmer
Commentary by
Monday, April 27, 2009
Recently, a Saudi judge shocked many Saudis and global public opinion by upholding a marriage between an 8-year-old girl and a 47-year-old man. That ruling brought to public awareness an appalling practice that has for too long been hidden from view and shielded from open discussion and criticism.
The case was not unique. Another highly publicized recent case in Yemen featured a 10-year-old girl who sought a divorce after being forced by her parents to marry a 30-year-old man, who took advantage of his power in order to rape and abuse her. It is disgraceful that such blatantly coerced "marriages" are allowed to take place at all. Yet, those familiar with educational systems in the Arab world are not surprised.
Shameful traditional systems of education that suppress critical thinking make it possible for such backward practices to continue, shielded beyond a local, narrow, and unexamined view of religion. Rulings like that in Saudi Arabia are the outcomes of that failing educational system. Some Arab societies have failed miserably to produce well prepared generations capable of catching up with most corners of the world. The Saudi religious curriculum, which couples rote memorization of texts with uncritical acceptance of tribal practices, keeps the country backward. It does not prepare students to cope with modernity, nor to be productive participants in an increasingly global economy.
Despite the flood of billions and billions in oil money to public education, Saudi students consistently score among the worst in math and science. The greatest culprit is the suppression of critical thinking, coupled with limited and weak exposure to math and science. An impressive investment in the infrastructure of higher education has not yielded positive returns. It is as if the state had purchased the most advanced computer hardware, but neglected to secure any software to run it.
Most Arab educational systems fail to prepare graduates for productive lives. Each year thousands of students graduate from universities with degrees in Sharia (Islamic law) or Arabic literature. The vast majority of them will be unemployed, underemployed, or employed in the bloated government sector, which will further contribute to already bloated and inefficient government. Thinking for oneself - a precondition of both entrepreneurship and of democratic participation - is suppressed. It's little wonder that judges condemn innocent young girls to such fates.
Saudi Arabia and other Arab states should look at the policies of the United States and India that transformed education and made it a major force in achieving economic growth.
Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz of Harvard University have shown that economic returns on investments in education are enormous; college graduates in market-driven educational systems earn substantial returns on the investments of money and time involved. The willingness of Americans to invest in human capital, not merely for the elites but also for the masses, fueled American prosperity. The key, however, was not merely the quantity of investment, but the critical thinking it made possible. In contrast, Saudi Arabia lavishes money on free public education, with the goal of perpetuating a religious orthodoxy that is, in any case, taught by ill-prepared teachers. A better term for the rote memorization involved is not education, but indoctrination.
India's investment in education has lifted hundreds of millions from abject poverty through impressive real economic growth. The late prime minister, Indira Gandhi, once said, "education is a liberating force, and in our age it is also a democratizing force, cutting across the barriers of caste and class, smoothing out inequalities imposed by birth and other circumstances." That liberating force has not been merely state-funded, as James Tooley of Newcastle University has demonstrated in his field research and his recent book "A Beautiful Tree." The poor invest heavily from their meager resources to secure education for their children. One result of such skill- and critical-thought oriented education has been the growth of high-tech industries in India, a prospect undreamed of only a few years ago.
The task facing many Arab countries is acknowledging the priority of education over mere schooling. The answer isn't just spending more money. Alchemy didn't fail because of a lack of investments in alchemy academies. A curriculum centered on memorization of dogma should be reformed to allow critical thought, a key ingredient in escaping backwardness. That's as true of judicial backwardness, as it is of economic backwardness. Thorough-going educational reform - involving not merely money, but orientation to the market and critical thinking - can produce judicious judges. Memorization will merely perpetuate backwardness.
Raja Kamal is senior associate dean at the Harris School for Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago. Tom G. Palmer is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and vice president for international programs at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. This commentary was written for THE DAILY STAR.

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Iranian arms ship meets accident near Sudan

I wonder how this happened.
An Iranian vessel laden with weapons bound for the Gaza Strip was torpedoed off the coast of Sudan last week, allegedly by Israeli or American forces operating in the area, the Egyptian newspaper El-Aosboa reported on Sunday.
Anonymous sources in Khartoum told the newspaper that an unidentified warship bombed the Iranian vessel as it prepared to dock on Sudan before transferring its load for shipment to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
These sources said they suspects U.S. or Israeli involvement in the attack, but neither Washington nor Jerusalem have released a statement yet on the matter.
The Israel Air Force, meanwhile, is suspected of attacking a convoy of Iranian arms that passed through Sudan en route to Gaza in January, according to reports released in March.
American officials confirmed the IAF involvement in that attack, The New York Times later reported, abd said they had received intelligence reports that an Iranian Revolutionary Guards operative had gone to Sudan to help organize the weapons convoy said the report.
Israel has neither denied nor confirmed involvement in that incident.
In February, Cypriot authorities detained an Iranian arms ship en route Iranian arms ship en route to Syria, apparently upon request of the U.S. and Israel.
A search of the ship, which was sailing from Iran to the Syrian port of Latakia, found ammunition for T-72 tanks, used by the Syrian army, as well as various types of mortar shells, said a senior Israeli official.
The United States has claimed that the ship was carrying weapons from Iran to Hamas or the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah.

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Frattini justifies Durban II boycott, asks Israel to participate in peace process

Franco Frattini is a real friend. There can be no doubt about that. So when his statements do not necessarily coincide with Israeli policy, we should at least listen and consider them.

Frattini: Durban II boycott was required

Apr. 26, 2009
LISA PALMIERI-BILLIG, jpost correspondent, rome , THE JERUSALEM POST

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini openly admits his commitment to Israel, the memory of the Holocaust and the fight against resurgent anti-Semitism, and proudly states that "the Jewish community always receives me as the great friend I feel I am."

He plans to say more about this when, as guest of honor, he addresses the American Jewish Committee at its Annual General Meeting in Washington on May 7.

With Frattini at the helm, Italy was the first EU country to announce its boycott of last week's UN anti-racism conference ("Durban II") in no uncertain terms. As early as March 5, he declared the basic conditions for Italy's participation were lacking, setting the stage for Poland, Germany and Holland to follow suit.

On April 21, the day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's shocking address, Italy's Foreign Ministry released a memo on its boycott of the conference stating, "In our assessment we also considered... the statements that would eventually be made in plenary session and on the sidelines. We could not participate in an event where, once again, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was manipulated and Israel labeled a racist nation, as happened in 2001. The events of Monday afternoon confirmed that foresight."

"Not just the text, but the context itself was our concern," Frattini told The Jerusalem Post.

"Italy bowed out when we realized all space for negotiations was gone and Holland's excellent draft would be discarded," he said.

"We felt three key points of the adopted paper were unacceptable: approval of the Durban 2001 document, which singled out Israel amid motions decrying racism; insufficient treatment of the Holocaust - the greatest tragedy of the 20th century, and motions aimed at limiting freedom of expression regarding criticism of religions and their followers.

"An international forum on a crucial issue such as racism cannot be exploited to attack Israel," he continued. "The EU displayed political weakness and lost an occasion for expressing unity."

Frattini said the UN Human Rights Committee ought to be reformed, recalling a US proposal for "a coalition of democracies" within the UN.

"The problem is that we have no power to separate democracies from totalitarian states. Today, non-democratic countries have the same voting rights as democracies," he said.

He recalled Italy's battle in the General Assembly against the death penalty.

"We finally won last year," he said, "even though these principles cannot be legally enforced. Violations continue in China, Iran, etc. while, fortunately, the death penalty has been eradicated from the EU."

Frattini envisions a future, nonpolitical UN conference focusing on "the human person's universal right to life, physical integrity, free expression, gender equality for men, women and homosexuals, abolishing political imprisonment and the death penalty everywhere; a new humanism guaranteed for all, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion."

He agreed, though, that the threat of a nuclear Iran was one of the world's most pressing problems.

"We actually don't know what Iran is doing," he sad. "The embargo has never been fully applied, so its effects oscillate. The 5+1 powers have no common vision.

"We cannot permit Iran to produce a nuclear bomb. Nuclear power for peaceful use only is acceptable. We must reduce the number of nuclear military powers, not add new ones."

There are rumors regarding a Fiat factory expansion in Iran.

The Fiat factory has existed for 35 years, but there is no new activity. There is a freeze on all new investments.

What is your opinion regarding US President Barack Obama's offer to engage Iran in dialogue?

I am in complete agreement and very much appreciate his leadership at this difficult moment.

While fully condemning Ahmadinejad's words, President Obama also reminded him that Iran must cooperate with the international community if it wants dialogue. Obama is clearly demanding serious dialogue based on concrete facts.

Israel considers time to be of the essence, and is becoming quite anxious.

As a loyal friend of Israel we must also give advice. We have publicly expressed our fears that any conflict would produce a major disaster, above all for Israel.

How is Italy engaged in the peace process?

I maintain a direct line with [US Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton. I met with Lebanese and Syrian leaders a few days ago, am presently meeting with Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, and will meet Israel's new foreign minister in Rome on May 4.

And the content of your meetings?

They are positive. Syria confirmed its wish to negotiate with Israel. The Saudi Arabian peace initiative, with de facto recognition of Israel, is on the carpet.

The ball is now also in Israel's camp. Does Israel still hold what we hold - that two states for two peoples is the only possible solution? Is Israel ready to take on talks with Syria? Is Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu ready to resume peace talks?

We will soon have the answers - after Foreign Minister [Avigdor] Lieberman's visit.


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Fatah, Hamas preparing to battle over talks

Something tells me that this set of talks will not be the last either, despite the "last ditch" label.

Mutual recriminations fly prior to 'last-ditch' talks for Fatah, Hamas

Apr. 26, 2009
Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST

Hamas and Fatah representatives are scheduled to resume "reconciliation" talks in Cairo on Sunday in what is being described as a last-chance attempt to solve the power struggle between the two groups.

The talks, which come amid increased Hamas-Fatah tensions, are being held under the auspices of Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman, who is hoping to convince the rival parties to agree to the formation of a Palestinian unity government.

Representatives of the two sides held three rounds of talks in Cairo over the past few months, but failed to reach agreement on the proposed unity coalition and other issues related to general elections, the status of the Palestinian security forces, PLO reforms and the future of the peace process.

Suleiman is expected to meet with the Hamas and Fatah delegations before the beginning of the talks to urge them to do their utmost to end their differences, sources close to the two groups said.

Hamas and Fatah spokesmen said over the weekend that the prospects of achieving progress during the upcoming round of talks were slim. They pointed out that the gaps between them remained as wide as ever and that neither side was willing to soften its stance.

The spokesmen denied a report in the Saudi Okaz newspaper, according to which Egypt had threatened to end its mediation efforts if the two sides failed to reach an agreement in the coming days.

Nabil Amr, the Palestinian Authority ambassador to Egypt, hailed Egypt for its "patience" in dealing with the two parties. He added that Fatah was keen on ending the rift to avoid internecine fighting and called on Hamas to display flexibility and realism.

"The regional and international situation required all Palestinian parties not to waste time," Amr said. He also criticized Iran for meddling in Palestinian affairs by supporting Hamas and threatening Egypt's national security by setting up Hizbullah cells in the country.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum described the upcoming meeting as the most difficult since the beginning of the dialogue with Fatah.

"The talks have been stalled because of the failure of the last session of negotiations [in Cairo]," Barhoum said. "The main obstacle has been the fact that Fatah is continuing to represent the pro-Israeli American agenda during the talks."

He added that another challenge facing the negotiators was the massive crackdown on Hamas supporters in the West Bank by security forces loyal to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

"The issue of political detainees remains at the top of our agenda," Barhoum noted. "Fatah made a big mistake when it thought that it would be able to cripple Hamas and bring it to its knees by detaining leaders and supporters of Hamas."

Ismail Radwan, a Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, accused Fatah-dominated security forces in the West Bank of waging a campaign of arrests against Hamas supporters. He said the talks in Cairo would not succeed as long as Hamas supporters and members were still in Abbas's jails.

Radwan also called ongoing security coordination between PA security forces in the West Bank and Israel an "obstacle" to achieving a breakthrough.

In response to Fatah's demand that Hamas accept all previous agreements signed with Israel, Barhoum called on Fatah to "liberate" itself from American and Israeli control.

Fathi Za'reer, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, accused Hamas of arresting scores of Fatah members in the Gaza Strip in a bid to foil the talks in Cairo.

He said that Hamas militiamen had arrested Mahmoud Qanan, a senior leader of Fatah's youth organization, the shabiba, in the Gaza Strip on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, Hamas's security forces summoned three top Fatah operatives for interrogation, Za'reer said. The three were identified as Jamal Obeid, Mohammed Matar and Iyam al-Matlan.

The Fatah spokesman called the move the latest in a series of "provocations" by the Islamic movement to thwart Egypt's mediation efforts.

"More than 30 Fatah supporters have been summoned for interrogation by Hamas since the beginning of the week," Za'reer said. "Many of them were tortured during interrogation."


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Will there be a Durban III?

Generals are always ready to fight the last war. Durban II was different, and less damaging to Israel than Durban I. Durban III may be abandoned as an anti-Israel advocacy platform, because the terror groupies will have found a different and more useful venue for propaganda about Israel. For example, why not have a U.N. conference on poverty, and blame all the poverty in the Middle East on Zionism? .

Ready for Durban III

Apr. 26, 2009
michael dickson , THE JERUSALEM POST

I had been warned, prior to the Durban Review Conference in Geneva, that Jews should not walk around the surroundings of the UN alone, but rather in pairs for their own safety. This was advice which I ignored and thankfully, I emerged from Durban II unscathed. The same cannot be said of the reputation of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

We arrived in Geneva with trepidation; we expected the ugly scenes witnessed at the Durban I conference in 2001, where vicious anti-Semitic demonstrations outside the conference mirrored the bile poured on Israel from inside the UN. Yet we were determined. This time, we vowed, we would not be caught by surprise, and we would not underestimate the hateful attempts to scapegoat Israel by some of the worst human rights abusers.

The countries that make up the UN Human Rights Council demonstrated once again that they prefer to bark at Israel rather than address the very real abuses taking place in their own backyard. At Durban II, we shone the light back on these nations and the glare was witnessed worldwide. At Durban II, human rights activists, students and those whose agenda was being ignored, including refugees from Darfur, stood up and said: No more.

PRIOR TO THE opening of the conference, the Swiss president met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, citing freedom of speech as justification. This caused noted civil liberties champion Alan Dershowitz to comment that "if Hitler were still chancellor of Germany, he would be welcome in Switzerland."

With this backdrop, we staged our own opening to Durban II, a silent protest, led by student demonstrators. They walked towards the Palais Des Nations with tape over their mouths to reflect the silence of the UN on issues such as the violent oppression of women, the genocide in Darfur which claims a life every eight minutes, the suppression of students, minorities and gays in Iran - and all because of the obsessive focus on Israel.

This was a human rights conference opened by a genocidal dictator. A gathering on racism where Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel was lambasted by members of the Iranian delegation in the corridors of the UN as a "ZioNazi." In the words of a journalist I met who was covering Durban II: You couldn't make it up.

Durban II - a review conference - could never remove the stain of Durban I. The Durban process was a mass diversion. Changing the subject is a favorite pastime of many of the countries who lead the Human Rights Council, which betrays the noble aims upon which it was founded. Its members obfuscate the agenda to avoid answering questions about themselves. They ratchet up the rhetoric against Israel when, in reality, the Jewish state, a free, open and liberal democracy, has a human rights record to be proud of.

The efforts of the anti-Durban activists and the mass walkout of diplomats in the face of Ahmadinejad's racist rant marked a watershed event. The lesson of Durban II is this: The words "never again" mean something to us. There are many nations worthy of sanctions; Israel is not one of them. And we will not stand idly by while atrocities are committed by hypocritical, despotic regimes and Israel is singled out for blame.

Let the countries who hijacked the fight against racism be put on notice: We are ready for Durban III.

The writer is Israel director of StandWithUs, which educates about Israel through student fellowships, speaker programs, conferences, written materials and internet resources. StandWithUs has twelve offices around the world, including Los Angeles, Israel and the UK.


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You don't say! Ofer Dekel: 'Prisoner swap protests weakened us'

This is really stating the obvious. What is more interesting, is what happened to the "free Shalit" lobby when the new Israeli government took over? Where are the protestors, the signs, the baby pictures of Gilad Shalit, the tent, the press conferences? Did it suddenly become less urgent to free Gilad Shalit?  

'Prisoner swap protests weakened us'

Apr. 27, 2009 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

Public protests weakened Israel's position in negotiations with Hizbullah for captured IDF reservists Ehud Regev and Eldad Goldwasser, Ofer Dekel, the outgoing special negotiator on the captive issue said Monday.

"When the media and the public respond as they do, it weakens one's position," Dekel told Army Radio. "On the other hand though, there are other aspects - families, sensitivities and pain."

Dekel met the families of Regev and Golwasser in Sha'arei Tikva on Monday for the first time since the reservists' bodies were returned to Israel in a prisoner swap deal with Hizbullah in 2007.

Dekel said that the negotiating team always believed that direct contact with the captives' families would hinder the process, but he said he insisted that he knew about every demonstration.

"Warm relations is a natural instinct. We are human beings," he said. "My motto when I had contact with the families was always, 'I am not prepared to reveal anything via the media. Consult with me on any protests that you plan to hold so that we can do things together cleverly.'"

Dekel said that Hizbullah knew all along how to conduct serious negotiations, calling the terror group "despicable, but professional."

"There was never a case in which they didn't come to a meeting ready. Every word of theirs was carefully considered and planned. They knew about every protest rally here in Israel and used it for their benefit," he said.

Dekel, who had been leading Egyptian-mediated negotiations with Hamas for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, resigned last week and was temporarily replaced by Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin.


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Obama admin wants to aid PA government even if it includes Hamas

Here are some famous last words:
Clinton has defended the proposal, saying that the U.S. has continued to fund other governments in which designated terror groups are represented, including the Lebanese government which includes officials from the Hezbollah militant organization
Indeed. And what will the U.S. do if, after the upcoming elections in Lebanon, all the military equipment it has given Lebanon is controlled by the Hezbollah?
Last update - 11:03 27/04/2009       
'Obama wants aid to go to PA even if Hamas joins government'
By Haaretz Service
The Obama administration has asked Congress to amend U.S. law to enable the Palestinians to receive federal aid even if it forms a unity coalition with Hamas, the L.A. Times reported on Monday.
Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' forces in a bloody 2007 coup, has been deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S. and therefore cannot not legally receive U.S. government aid.
The U.S. has presented an $830.4-billion emergency spending bill, comprising funding for its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill would also allocate $840 million to the Palestinian Authority and for reconstruction in the Gaza Strip following Israel's three-week offensive there earlier this year.
Because none of the Gaza aid can legally reach Hamas, it will be difficult to ensure its delivery to the coastal territory.
The U.S. has refused to grant aid to Hamas unless the group agrees to recognize Israel, renounce violence and agreeing to follow past accords secured between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The administration's request for the minor changes to aid measures is unlikely to come into fruition, as no concrete plans are yet underway for a Palestinian unity government. Reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah have been ongoing, but have so far yielded no results.
Still, the move has stirred controversy among pro-Israel U.S. officials, according to the L.A. Times.
Republican Representative Mark Steven Kirk told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a House hearing last week that the proposal was tantamount to supporting a government with "only has a few Nazis in it," the L.A. Times said.
Democratic Representative Adam B. Schiff called the proposal "completely unworkable," even if Hamas were to agree to abide by the U.S.' preconditions, according to the L.A. Times.
"You couldn't have the leadership of a terrorist organization pick the ministers in the government, with the power to appoint and withdraw them, and answering to them," the L.A. Times quoted him as saying.
Clinton has defended the proposal, saying that the U.S. has continued to fund other governments in which designated terror groups are represented, including the Lebanese government which includes officials from the Hezbollah militant organization.
The secretary of state urged the government to work to change the attitudes of Hamas, rather than cutting of all possibility of dealing with them should they join the ruling Palestinian coalition.
"We don't want to . . . bind our hands in the event that such an agreement is reached, and the government that they are part of agrees to our principles," she said

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Guide to the perplexed - How to spot Good and Bad articles

The problem is that people are always looking for affirmation of their beliefs in what they read. Therefore, most people will rate an article or analyst as "good" if they agree with the positions of that analyst or article, regardless of whether or not the article in question has any truth value. To the list below, I would add many things. The first one, when you are writing an article or doing research, is to ask yourself if you are looking to find the truth and present it, or if you are only looking to prove a point? Are you going to publish the article if the findings do not serve your viewpoint? Are you excluding facts that don't serve your purpose? Have you thoroughly checked the facts, especially the ones that support your point of view?  

How to Be A Good Political Analyst and Not a Propagandist

The rise of Internet has brought new challenges both for writers and readers. Supposedly, a fine [sarcasm alert] publication like the New York Times or Guardian has sharp veteran reporters and great editors ("gatekeepers"). Thus, they filter out nonsense—well at least they once did long ago--and tell you what's most important to know about events. If you are reading these words, however, you know the system isn't working too well nowadays.

Enter the Internet. On the positive side, it liberates the creativity of thousands of people and provides a huge diversity of information. On the negative side, how do you know what's more likely to be true, whether you are a reader or a blogger?

This is, by the way, the kind of thing they are supposed to teach you in graduate school: how to evaluate sources, how to provide a scholarly balance, how to make it clear when you're unsure about something, how to throw out really good stuff that you doubt is accurate, and how not to say something is fact just because it agrees with your analysis or political preferences.

Alas, a lot of these skills or ethical principles have been tossed out the window and thrown under the bus. Large numbers of academics and journalists now believe there is no such thing as truth (or at least the most accurate possible representation of it possible) and that people should be told what's good for them rather than what's accurate.

For them, the purpose of universities is not to pursue truth and beauty but to "fight the man," wage revolution, or bring in the new Politically Correct, culturally diverse, post-national utopia.
Here's a good example of a very bad example.

A propagandist is not someone who merely has a point of view but rather someone who slants the facts to fit it that point of view rather than taking account of them by either explaining how they fit into the picture or modifying one's viewpoint. In short, they try to make all aspects of reality line up like a magnetic field. Naturally, this kind of simple explanation suits many people.

One aspect of this is to define who are the "good guys" and the "bad guys" and then assume that all their actions fall into these categories. This reverses the logical process. For example, many assume Israel is a bad guy. Bad guys do bad things. Bad guys commit war crimes. Therefore, Israel commits war crimes. Evidence becomes irrelevant.

Obviously, this process can be the same if one identifies Iran as the bad guy. Yet that country and its regime must be analyzed, especially because there are many choices for the government to make. There are also different factions which differ in strategy and tactics. And even then, the choices available may be the exact opposites.

For example, given the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq what will Iran's regime do? It could: A. Try to keep things quiet in Iraq thus encouraging the United State sto speed up its withdrawal or B. Heat up the violence to "show" that the United States is running away in defeat.

Even more important is to look at the interests which underlay actions. For instance, can Syria be split away from Iran? No one is qualified to discuss this issue unless they first take into account the interests of the Syrian regime and the benefits it would derive from either maintaining or abandoning the alliance. I happen to believe that the benefits of keeping the alliance far outweigh the advantages of breaking it, and note that the former are virtually never discussed in analyses assuming that the latter is obviously preferable.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Skol! Auschwitz brand beer

This is one reason why there is almost no such thing as "too much" information about the Holocaust. The other reason, of course is active disinformation provided by Holocaust denial Web sites, books and articles. But the study should have done some controls. The extent of ignorance about any subject is always surprising. A poll in 2006 found that 2% of US voters could not identify George Bush as President of the United States and 25% could not identify the Hamas.  
By Caroline Grant
Last updated at 8:04 AM on 09th March 2009
Some schoolchildren believe the Nazi death camp Auschwitz was a brand of beer, a religious festival or a kind of bread.
Research released today shows that a shocking number of pupils aged between 11 and 16 have a poor understanding of the Holocaust.

Around 1.3million people perished in Auschwitz during the Second World War and six million Jews were killed in total. But a survey of 1,200 youngsters revealed that 23 per cent have no idea what the camp was.

The Holocaust is specified on the National Curriculum as a subject that secondary school pupils must be taught.
Yet of those questioned, as part of research by the London Jewish Cultural Centre (LJCC), 8 per cent thought Auschwitz was a country bordering Germany, 2 per cent thought it was a beer and the same proportion said it was a religious festival.
Bizarrely, a further 1 per cent believed the concentration camp was a type of bread.

About 10 per cent said they were not sure what Auschwitz was.

The LJCC explained that as there are around 4.5million 11- to 16-year-olds in Britain, this is the equivalent of 90,000 youngsters wrongly identifying Auschwitz as a drink and 45,000 mistaking it for bread.

This picture taken at Auschwitz in May 1944 shows the arrival and processing of Jews from Hungary

The poll also found that six out of ten of the pupils did not know that the Final Solution was the Nazi plan to exterminate the Jewish population. A fifth thought it was the name of peace talks held to end the war.

Only just over a third (37 per cent) knew that the Holocaust claimed the lives of six million Jews, with many drastically underestimating the death toll.

However, most of the children were able to identify Adolf Hitler from a photograph. The 3 per cent who could not mistook famous figures such as Winston Churchill, Salvador Dali and Albert Einstein for the dictator.

The LJCC and film producers Miramax commissioned the survey to mark the DVD release of The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas. The film tells the story of a German boy's friendship with a Jewish child held in a concentration camp.

Some of the shoes taken from prisoners shortly before they died at the hands of the Nazis in Auschwitz

Miramax is working with the charity Film Education to encourage the film to be used as a way of improving children's knowledge about the Holocaust.

Karen Pollock, of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: 'Last year alone, the trust enabled 30,000 students to hear the powerful testimony of a Holocaust survivor, took 3,000 students and teachers to visit Auschwitz, and provided resources and support to thousands of schools in the UK.

'Whilst having not seen the survey, these findings suggest that our work is succeeding but clearly there is more to be done.

'That is why we are proud to support a groundbreaking research initiative by the Institute of Education, which will assess how the Holocaust is being taught in schools across the country. This will be instrumental in our work in years to come to educate students about the Holocaust.'
Auschwitz is 50 miles west of Krakow in Poland. Around 90 per cent of its victims were Jews, many killed in the camp's gas chambers.
Others died because of starvation and forced labour. Among those who died at Auschwitz was the teenage diarist Anne Frank.

Recently Richard Williamson, a British Roman Catholic bishop who caused uproar by denying the scale of the Holocaust, apologised for his comments.

But his apology, after claiming that no more than 300,000 Jews died in the Nazi camps, failed to appease the Vatican which said he had not met a demand for a 'full
and public recanting'.

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How genocide happens

Genocide is always prepared by creating a culture of hatred and demonization of the intended victims.
Apr. 25, 2009
Survivors of the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur spoke in Geneva this week at the parallel conference on human rights to counter the UN Durban II event. Listening to them describe how they were systematically demonized by the killers made it clear that genocide does not happen in a vacuum. The hate condition of a population willing and anxious to commit genocide needs nurturing. Genocide must be framed positively to get the necessary broad public support.
Common to the framing of all genocide is a very specific kind of demonization. In Rwanda, the Hutus taught that the Tutsis were cockroaches and snakes. Tutsi women were portrayed as cunning seductresses who used beauty and sexual power to conquer the Hutus. In Bosnia, a fictitious news report said Muslims were feeding Serb children to animals at the Sarajevo zoo. Radio Rwanda repeatedly broadcast a warning that Hutus were about to be attacked by Tutsis, to convince the Hutus that they needed to attack first to protect themselves.
 This demonization included two specific components. First, the victims had to be perceived as a clear and present threat, so that the killers were convinced they were acting in self-defense. Second, the victims were dehumanized, so that the killers convinced themselves that they were not destroying real human beings.
 A decent person will not join in a murder of innocents, but a decent person might join in the killing of a subhuman who is threatening his very existence. Framing genocide as self-defense can turn decent people into killers. Protection of children and family can turn a calm neighbor into a passionate murderer, because self-defense is always justified.
In Darfur and Rwanda, all that was necessary to turn a society of ordinary people into killers was to convince them that they were in danger, and that the people endangering them were less than human.
LOOKING BACK on Jewish history, it is clear that the method used to foment violence against Jews has always involved the same framing of "self-defense," with only the details changed.
So when Jews were falsely accused of poisoning wells in the Middle Ages, causing thousands of deaths, even decent people joined in the killings. They did not perceive themselves as murderers because they were defending themselves and their families.
When Jews were believed to be using blood of children for Passover matzot, even decent people felt comfortable massacring Jews, as they were defending their children from a horrific torture.
Even Hitler used this argument of self-defense in Mein Kampf: "In this case [given the Jews' threat to the German people] the only salvation remaining was war, war with all the weapons the human spirit, reason, and will could muster... If the Jew... is victorious over the peoples of this world, then his crown will be the funeral wreath of humanity... Thus I believe today that I am acting according to the will of the almighty creator: When I defend myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord."
Hitler, too, packaged his genocide as legitimate self-defense. The details may change in each society, but the framing is always the same.
EXAMINING PALESTINIAN hate promotion today, it is especially striking and disconcerting that these components of the past genocides against Jews are prominent elements of the hate promotion of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas against Jews and Israelis.
Two items on Hamas TV earlier this month clearly document this.
Hamas TV broadcast a skit featuring actors playing a Jewish father and son, in traditional Hassidic garb, discussing the hatred of Muslims their Jewish religion mandated. The father even revives the age-old libel that Jews drink the blood of Muslims: "Shimon, look, my son, I want to teach you a few things. You have to hate the Muslims... we want to kill the Muslims, we Jews want to drink the blood of Muslims." He later criticizes his son for washing his hands in water before prayer: "We have to wash our hands with the blood of Muslims" (Al-Aksa TV, April 3). Ironically, the Hamas accusation that Jews drink Muslim blood came the week before Passover, the anniversary of many horrific blood libels.
 That same day, a Hamas religious leader ended his sermon with the promise of eventual genocide of the Jews. But to frame it properly, he opened with a depiction of Jews as the enemies of humanity: The Jews are inherently evil, seek to rule the world and are a threat to Muslims and all of humanity.
This is how Ziad Abu Alhaj framed it: "Hatred for Muhammad and Islam is in their [Jews'] souls, they are naturally disposed to it... Israel is a cancer that wants to rule the world." He concluded that the Jews are destined to be annihilated: "The time will come, by Allah's will, when their property will be destroyed and their children will be exterminated, and no Jew or Zionist will be left on the face of this earth" (Al-Aksa TV, April 3).
THIS DEMONIZATION and dehumanization of Jews is not limited to Hamas. Although hesitant to call for explicit murdering of Jews while seeking Western money, the PA continues its unrelenting framing of genocide as self-defense and for the common good.
In the PA-Fatah media today, Jews and Israelis are demonized through malicious libels, including such lies as the assertion that Israel intentionally spreads AIDS and drugs among Palestinians, conducts Nazi-like medical experiments on Palestinian prisoners and is planning to destroy the Aqsa Mosque.
 Says the Palestinian chief religious justice, Tayseer al-Tamimi: "The AIDS issue needs to receive due attention... since we neighbor a society [Israel] where the disease is widespread and which acts to transmit [AIDS] to Palestinian society. The occupying authorities, especially in Jerusalem, are working to spread drugs and drug addiction, without a doubt" (PA radio, February 17, 2008).
And this from Dr. Mutawakil Tahalk, head of the Palestinian Writers' Union and former PA deputy minister: "We saw how they [Zionists] stab bellies of pregnant women, slaughter infants and eat life in cold blood. They targeted children and the wombs of women so this people won't reproduce" (PATV, March 4, 2008).
A July 2008 article in Al-Ayyam accused Israeli settlers of releasing rats in Jerusalem's Old City "to turn the [Arab] residents' life into a living hell, forcing then to leave..." (July 17, 2008). A PA TV video clip juxtaposes scenes of a real Israeli tank with fictitious scenes of a child actor being shot, creating the fiction that Israelis deliberately target and shoot Palestinian children (PATV, May 15, 2008).
 Just as the Tutsis were described as cockroaches and snakes, both Hamas and the PA have described Jews as loathsome and dangerous animals, including cockroaches, spiders, scorpions and alligators.
While each libel is somewhat different, their essence is the same: The Israelis and the Jews are dangerous, they are not human, we need to defend ourselves from them and we are clearly justified in doing so.
It is tragic that this framing of genocide as necessary self-defense has been so chillingly successful.
A poll after last year's murders of eight teenage yeshiva students found that "84 percent of Palestinians support the terror attack killing eight young students in a Jerusalem yeshiva on March 6, 2008" (Poll by Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, The New York Times, March 19, 2008). How can an entire Palestinian society support the murder of children? Clearly, the framing of Jews and Israelis as mortally dangerous to Palestinians has been totally successful.
Israel now faces a society that is very possibly past the stage of genocide framing and at the point of seeing the killing of Israelis, even teens, as justified. All that would be necessary for the population to go along with the final script, detailed so many times by its leaders, would be the means.
The writer is director of Palestinian Media Watch.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Was Durban-2 good for Israel?

The second Durban conference was undoubtedly less bad than the first one. It did give a platform to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who got a lot of applause for Israel bashing and USA bashing. It did approve the Durban 1 resolutions and that wasn't good either. But the widespread outrage and walkout during Ahmadinejad's speech showed that Israel is not alone in the world. Too bad there were no third world countries among the protestors. Durban 2 will not have the same fallout as the previous conference. But Ahmadinejad is steadily advancing his goals. That's a different problem.

Second Thoughts About Durban-2

Barry Rubin
It is possible that I was too pessimistic about the result of Durban-2, at least in terms of the final resolution. Apparently, there were enormous changes at the very last minute in the text of the resolution. There is also an apparently valid argument that the NGO insanity of the first meeting was kept in check. So my mind is open on this point. I look forward to seeing more analyses as well, of course, as watching what happens to European policy especially in the aftermath.

I would add, though, that the Iranian regime scores propaganda points in the Muslim and Arab worlds by it s extremism without incurring any costs in the West. An expert who closely follows the Iranian media says that the criticism of Ahmadinejad for making Iran look ridiculous and stirring up hatred against it was extremely limited.

As that expert put it, "Within Iran, Ahmadinejad is like a winning football team, scoring one victory after another." That is not to understate the fact that his faction has many enemies, still does not control the country, and is not popular because of its economic failings.
Continued - Second Thoughts About Durban-2

Continued (Permanent Link)

Chinese Zionist expansionist fruit plot against Iran

Did you hear about the Chinese-Israeli restaurant? You eat there, and an hour later you are hungry for international recognition...

Chinese citrus fruit 'disgraces' Iran

Apr. 27, 2009
Rebecca Anna Stoil , THE JERUSALEM POST

Here's a juicy story: Panic erupted over the weekend in Teheran after Iranian authorities were horrified to discover that citrus fruit being snatched up by buyers across the capital were marked as Israeli-grown Jaffa sweeties.

It was later discovered, however, that the "sweeties" were likely Chinese fruit fraudulently marketed as the prestigious Israeli product.

Two Iranian press agencies reported Sunday that citrus with stickers bearing the words "Jaffa sweetie Israel PO" had appeared in Teheran, but that the suspicious fruit had been packed in boxes that clearly said "Product of China."

Nevertheless, Teheran immediately responded to the "Zionist" infiltration.

According to Iran-based Press TV, Hossen Safaie, the head of the Fruit and Vegetable Distribution Center of Teheran, expressed his hope that the lawbreakers would be brought to justice and that "his organization will not allow those who want to make a profit ignore the Iranian citizens' religious and revolutionary learning."

Press TV also reported that Deputy Iranian Commerce Minister Mohammad Sadeq Mofatteh had offered a 1 trillion Iranian rial prize to anyone who could prove that his ministry had issued a permit for the import of the offensive fruit.

He added that "rogue elements" may have labeled the citrus as Israeli in order "to disgrace the ruling government."

Later in the day, after Israel denied lobbing any fruit in Teheran's direction, it emerged that the "made in China" stamp on the boxes was likely the more accurate label.

The Jaffa sweetie, a pomelo-grapefruit hybrid, is popular in world markets due to its taste, low seed count and easy-to-remove peel.

This is not the first time that Chinese producers have allegedly placed misleading labels on produce to make it more appealing to international buyers - although in this case, it may go down as the first marketing mistake to (almost) create a diplomatic dust-up.

In fact, Israeli fruit routinely makes its way to places where Israelis themselves fear to tread.

In recent years, apples grown by Druse farmers on the Golan Heights have made their way across the UN-run Kuneitra checkpoint and been sold in Syria and even Saudi Arabia, with the proceeds returning to the Golan agrarians.

And that is just the tip of the fruity iceberg.

According to Israel Fruit Growers' Association chairman Ilan Eshel, dozens of tons of fruit goes through the IDF crossings into the Gaza Strip every year. And Israeli-grown avocados, persimmons and bananas are routinely sold to buyers in Jordan, from where - stickers removed - they reach customers in Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Eshel remarked that occasionally the fruit (and yes, the avocado is a fruit) encounters resistance from anti-Israel elements, but buyers are more than willing to close the deals.

"I think that economics are stronger than animosity, and when people want necessary goods - or even goods a bit beyond the bare necessities - they discover that ideology is less of a factor," said Eshel.


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Ahmadinejad: Palestinians should vote on fate - What does he mean?

This has been widely interpreted as signalling Iranian acceptance of a two state solution if "Palestinians" will accept it. However, comparison with previous statements suggests that the "Palestinians" concerned include all Palestinians everywhere, and that Ahmadinejad is quite confident as to how they would vote. It is likely that Iran would declare any vote that supported a two state solution and the existence of Israel  to be "undemocratic."
April 26, 2009
JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Iran would be fine with a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict if the Palestinians vote on it in a referendum, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said.
"Whatever decision they take is fine with us," Iran's president said Sunday in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week." "We are not going to determine anything. Whatever decision they take, we will support that. We think that this is the right of the Palestinian people, however we fully expect other states to do so as well. The U.S. administration, European governments -- the right to determine their fate by the Palestinians should be respected by all of them. "
Ahmadinejad said in the rare interview with American media that he does not have a clear idea about President Obama's Palestinian policy.
"However, the gentleman's support of the massacre of Gazans in support for the criminals who were responsible for that atrocity was a major mistake on the part of the gentleman," he said.
Ahmadinejad said he has "no reservations" about talking to the United States and European powers about Iran's nuclear program, but he said the talks should have a "clear-cut framework" and a "clear" agenda.
The Iranian leader said he had fully expected Obama to participate in last week's U.N. Durban Review Conference in Geneva due to the importance of the issue of racial discrimination.
"The Zionist regime is the manifestation of racism," Ahmadinejad said, adding that "Mr. Obama has the right to have his own opinion, obviously."

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Israel adopts Phalanx system

Neutralizing rocket fire as a threat has been a top priority for Israel for several years. Though systems were promised, they have not yet become operational. The Israeli Iron Dome system, if and when it becomes operational, will require one $40,000 missile (at least) for each incoming projectile. That can get to be very expensive. Meanwhile, pressure mounted to examine alternatives such as the Phalanx and the chemical laser system.
The problem iwth the Phalanx apparently, is that there simply are not enough of them.
April 26, 2009:
After over a year of deliberation, Israel has ordered one of the modified U.S. Phalanx ship defense system to defend itself against rockets fired from Gaza. There are already two Israeli anti-rocket systems in the works, but it will be another year or two before these are available for service. Meanwhile, Palestinian terrorists have continued to fire rockets and mortar shells fired into southern Israel. Although Israel has been desperate for a weapon that will defend key targets from Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza, there was considerable debate over buying the Phalanx system, mainly because the system is foreign, and two Israeli anti-rocket systems are already in development.

When the Israelis finally decided to buy, they were told that none could be spared. The Israelis wanted at least one of the systems, just to make sure it worked. After some intense diplomacy, they were told they could get one. The U.S. does not need the system much in Iraq any more, but wants to shift the Phalanx systems used in Iraq to Afghanistan. One of these systems will end up in Israel.

It was three years ago, that some Israelis noted how America and Britain were already using an effective anti-rocket system; C RAM. This is a modified version of the U.S. Navy Phalanx system, which was originally designed to protect warships from anti-ship missiles. As originally designed, you turned Phalanx on whenever the ship was likely to have an anti-ship missile fired at it. The Phalanx radar can spot incoming missiles out to about 5,000 meters, and the 20mm cannon is effective out to about 2,000 meters. With incoming missiles moving a up to several hundred meters a second, you can see why Phalanx is set to automatic. There's not much time for human intervention, which is why the Phalanx has to be turned on and set to automatically detect and shoot at incoming missiles. But weapons engineers discovered that Phalanx could take out incoming 155mm artillery shells as well. This capability is what led to C-RAM. Now Israel is bringing one of these system to Israel, to see how well it performs in actually defending against Palestinian Kassasm rockets.

Since 2003, there have been two major Phalanx mods. In one, the Phalanx was adapted to use on land, to shoot down incoming rockets. This was done by using a larger artillery spotting radar, which directs Phalanx to fire at incoming mortar shells and rockets. Not all the incoming stuff is hit, but nearly 80 percent of it is, and every little bit helps. The second mod is for shipboard use, and changes the software so the Phalanx can be used against small boats, especially those of the suicide bomber variety.

Israel originally examined C RAM for possible use in defending northern Israel against another Hizbollah rocket attack. That's where Israelis apparently became aware of how C RAM could be used against Palestinian attacks using more primitive rockets. For defending northern Israel, C-RAM lacked the range to cover a long border against a variety of rocket types. But the home made Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza were another matter. Then, about two years ago, Britain bought a C RAM system to protect its air base in southern Iraq. A C-RAM Phalanx system, which can cover about four kilometers of border, costs $8 million.

C-RAM uses high explosive 20mm shells, that detonate near the target, spraying it with fragments. By the time these fragments reach the ground, they are generally too small to injure anyone. At least that's been the experience in Iraq. The original Phalanx used 20mm depleted uranium shells, to slice through incoming missiles. Phalanx fires shells at the rate of 75 per second. Another advantage of C-RAM, is that it makes a distinctive noise when firing, warning people nearby that a mortar or rocket attack is underway, giving people an opportunity to duck inside if they are out and about.

The first C-RAM was sent to Iraq in late 2006, to protect the Green Zone (the large area in Baghdad turned into an American base). It was found that C-RAM could knock down 70-80 percent of the rockets and mortar shells fired within range of its cannon. Not bad, since it only took about a year to develop C-RAM. Meanwhile, another version, using a high-powered laser, instead of the 20mm gun, is in development.

Israel has several small targets it wants to defend in southern Israel. The most frequent target is the town of Sderot. Since 2001, over 2,000 locally made Palestinian  "Kassam" rockets have been fired at Sderot. Ten people have been killed, and over fifty injured. The Israeli army has developed a radar system that provides 10-15 seconds warning, which is enough time to duck into a shelter. But Sderot only has 80 bomb shelters, most of them built 20-30 years ago and in need of repair. If you want to reduce the casualties in Sderot (about one dead or wounded per 30-40 rockets fired), you need to reduce the number of rockets landing. One C RAM system can defend an area about four kilometers in diameter. This makes it possible to defend Sderot with one or two Phalanx guns, and one early warning radar. There's also a power plant and air force base in the south that could eventually be within range of larger Kassam rockets. One or two C RAM Phalanx guns at each would greatly reduce the risk of a Kassam doing any damage. Hamas has been using some longer range rockets as well, putting more Israeli targets at risk. Many of these could be protected with a C-RAM system.

There are nearly 900 Phalanx systems in use, including some on Israeli warships. Most have not gotten these software mods, that enable the cannot to knock down rockets and shells, as well as incoming anti-ship missiles.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Barry Rubin: Two state dissolution?

Barry Rubin knows better than this. To a great extent, "Two state solution" is a slogan that is necessary for the sake of U.S. diplomacy, regardless of its utility as an actual policy.

Dissolving in the Two-State Solution

By Barry Rubin*

April 25, 2009

Ring! Ring! The Israeli prime minister's alarm clock went off. He quickly sat up in bed and immediately shouted out: "Yes! I'm for a two-state solution!"

At breakfast, lunch, and dinner, during his talks and all his meetings, in greeting his staff as he walked down the corridor to the office, endless he repeated that phrase.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what the world seems to want from Israeli policy.

But the fact is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted the two-state solution back in 1997 when he took over in the midst of the Oslo agreement peace process and committed himself to all preceding agreements.

This is not the real issue. The real issue is this: much of the world wants Israel to agree in advance to give the Palestinian Authority (PA) what they think it wants without any concessions or demonstration of serious intent on its part.

Continued here:
Dissolving in the Two-State Solution

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran arrests 'Zionist' spies

Last update - 22:53 26/04/2009       
Iran arrests 'Zionist-linked' cell plotting pre-election attacks
By Reuters
Iran has arrested a group of people linked to Israel who were planning bombings ahead of the Islamic Republic's June presidential election, the intelligence minister was quoted as saying on Sunday.
State radio, citing Intelligence Minister Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, did not say how many people had been arrested or give any other details.
Iran often accuses Israel and the United States, its two arch foes, of seeking to undermine the Islamic state. Last year, an Iranian businessman was hanged after he was convicted of spying on the military for the Jewish state.
"A group of deceived elements ... who wanted to carry out explosions, particularly before the June election, was arrested," Mohseni-Ejei said, according to the radio report.
He said they were "related to the Zionists." Iran often refers to Israel as the "Zionist regime."
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who last week prompted a walk-out at a U.N. meeting on race in Geneva after he branded Israel a racist state, is expected to run for a second four-year term in the June 12 election.
Former Prime Minister Mirhossein Mousavi, who advocates detente with the West, is expected to be Ahmadinejad's main moderate challenger in the presidency race.
Earlier in April, Iran executed three people convicted of being involved in the bombing of a mosque which killed 14 Iranians in the southern city of Shiraz in 2007.
Tehran had accused the United States of arming and training those behind the blast and said Britain and Israel were also involved. Washington and London have denied Iran's accusations.
Related articles:

Continued (Permanent Link)

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